Former Lehi MVP is making big contributions at Utah Tech
Two years ago, Lehi’s Noa Gonsalves led his team to the 5A state championship and was named the 5A MVP to cap a distinguished prep career. Today, he’s making great contributions to the basketball program at Utah Tech University in St. George.
Formerly called Dixie State College, Utah Tech was then in the process of transitioning to the Division I level in NCAA competition. The Trailblazers are members of the Western Athletic Conference.
“He’s been a big part of our move,” said Utah Tech Coach Jon Judkins. “He’s one of the first guys we got that we thought could play at that Division I level, and we really like what we’re seeing.
“It was a big history book thing, winning our first game in the WAC tournament,” the coach continued. “We’re behind in some things but we’re continuing to build and Noa is helping us get there.”
Utah Tech was seeded No. 11 in the tournament but upset No. 6 Stephen F. Austin 80-76 in overtime in the first round. They lost a heartbreaker to arch-rival SUU 76-75 in the quarterfinal.
As a true freshman, Gonsalves played in all 31 games and started two of them, scoring in 25 of those contests. He was named WAC Freshman of the Week after netting 12 points in a road game at North Dakota and earned Academic All-WAC honors for the season.
In his second year, Gonsalves started every game until he suffered a concussion from a collision at SUU on Feb. 17. He still played substantial minutes off the bench for the remaining five of the 32-game schedule. He scored a season-high 24 points against New Mexico State on Jan. 21.
For the season, he averaged more than 31 minutes per game, providing 8.7 points and 2.8 rebounds per contest. He shot better than 40 percent from long range and canned 59 triples this season.
He converted more than 42 percent of his field goals and was 75.5 percent from the free-throw line. He also had 59 assists and 36 steals.
“He’s still our shooting guard, but we asked him to fill some different roles this year,” Judkins said. “We had him play point guard a little more, especially when our starter was out for a few games. He did a really good job handling the ball and getting us into our offense as well as shooting and scoring.
“It was a good eye-opener and nice to see that he can play there,” the coach went on. “We also changed our defensive strategy this year and he caught on really fast. He had to guard the better players in our league, the 2s and 3s, and he did very well.”
Gonsalves said, “My role on this team was to play defense and rebound the ball. Offensively a key part that the coaches wanted me to focus on is to catch and shoot threes. I shot 40 percentfrom 3-point land this year which was a major improvement from last year.
“College basketball is a complete step up from high school basketball,” he said. “The competition is much higher, the game speed is quicker, and the traveling is a lot different. There are a lot of players competing for minutes.
“There are a lot of players who are quicker, bigger, and more athletic throughout each and every team,” Gonsalves said. “Sometimes when traveling you could be gone for an entire week without seeing home, which can take a toll on your body. Recovery is crucial after games and practices.”
Despite the challenges, he has loved his experiences so far. “One of my favorite things about playing here in St. George is the atmosphere that the games bring in,” he said.
“The arena is filled with dedicated fans and a student section that makes the game much more fun, especially during the rivalry games with SUU and UVU.”
Gonsalves also said that there were things he learned during his time at Lehi High School which are still helping him. “One wasto stay disciplined throughout the season,” he said.
“There are a lot of ups and downs throughout the long season,but every day is a new day to get better,” Gonsalves added. “Whether that’s watching film or getting extra reps in the gym to work on the things that need improvement, that’s what you do.”
“We love his work ethic and how hard he goes,” Judkins said. “He’s been outstanding here, everything we thought he’d be and more. He’s a great leader by example. He’s not very vocal, buthis demeanor is still the same no matter what. He doesn’t have the ups and downs that are so tough for some.
“He’s so coachable and works so hard every day,” the coach said. “He’s way mature as a player and knows what he has to do. The concussion he had woke up his competitive spirit a little bit. He’s just a fighter, a guy you want out there.
“He felt a little bit more comfortable in our offense this year but he’s still a kid we need to push to shoot more on the offensiveend,” Judkins said. “He wants to share the ball and pass the ball; he’s such a team player and he wants to win so bad. He’s just naturally unselfish.
“His confidence is up this year, and he doesn’t hesitate as much now. He’s a better shooter than he thinks but that will continue to come in his future.
“After this season, we’ve lost our leading scorer and our point guard is gone so we’ll be looking for him to score a lot more than he did,” the coach said. “He has a really good first step and can explode to the rim and we want to see that a lot more.
“He’s been a fun one to coach and he’ll just continue to grow. We can’t wait to see what these next two years will bring. He’s just a dream kid to have on your team,” Judkins concluded.