Jason Smith

Whether he was scoring 30 points or only two, Jason Smith was the leader for the Morrison boys basketball team. He also was considered the best boys basketball player in the Three Rivers Conference.

Smith, a 6-foot-3 senior, was named the Three Rivers Player of the Year in a vote of league coaches. He also was a unanimous first-team all-conference selection for the second year in a row.

“In two games he scored over 30 points, but in the regional final against a real good Rock Falls team he had two points and took one shot. But, he led the way,” Morrison coach Dale Trott said.

More often than not, though, Smith was doing the most damage by putting the ball in the basket. He averaged 18 points and 4.2 rebounds a game, leading the Mustangs to a tie for the conference title, a regional crown and a 25-8 record, the most wins in school history.

“Every facet of his game improved this year,” Trott said. “In our last five or six games, when we had to have a win to win the conference, he stepped up defensively.”

Smith was one of three unanimous picks on the six-player all-conference first team. Riverdale’s Tyler Smeltzly and Sterling Newman’s Cody Behrens were the other two. Tyler DeVenney and Austin Peterson of league co-champion Bureau Valley also were first-team picks. Fulton senior Eric Geronzin rounded out the first team.

Geronzin, a 6-4 center, averaged 13.7 points and 8.4 rebounds a game for the Steamers. He had nine double-doubles (10 or more points and rebounds in a game) during the season.

Trott and Brad Bickett of Bureau Valley shared Coach of the Year honors after their teams shared first place in the league standings with 12-2 records.

“Coach of the Year isn’t accurate; it should be Staff of the Year,” Trott said. “My two assistants are volunteers and put a lot of time in.”

Trott, who taught several of his players’ parents at Morrison in the 1970s and 1980s, has helped the Morrison program regain the strength it once enjoyed. The Mustangs who won eight regional titles during Jerry Navarra’s 15 years at the helm, had endured several losing seasons and won just two games in each of Trott’s first two seasons. But the win total increased to double digits in his third year, went above the .500 mark in his fourth and increased again to 23 last year, tying the school record that the team broke this season.

“The kids really have bought into what we do,” Trott said. “This wouldn’t have happened without the staff, the parents and the kids, everyone I work with.”