Santa Clarita Christian's Kaleb Lowery drives against Rolling Hills Prep's JT Tan during the Div. 3AA boys basketball final Saturday Feb. 23, 2019 in Santa Ana. (Photo by Michael Fernandez, Contributing Photographer)

JT Tan was the kind of player who gave opposing coaches, and opposing players, headaches during the course of the 2018-19 Rolling Hills Prep boys basketball season. 

"Teams had to game plan when they played us, and (their plan) was trying to stop him first," RH Prep coach Harvey Kitani said. "We went to him and (opposing teams) send two, sometimes three players at him. He was our guy who played well pretty much all year." 

After averaging 17 points, 11 rebounds and five assists while being a key part of the Huskies CIF Southern Section Division 3AA championship, Tan was named the John R. Wooden Award recipient for CIF-SS Division III, while also being named the division 3AA MVP. 

"I'm very grateful after all the hard work I put in with practices and school," the 6-foot-8 junior said. "To be named one of the best players in the division, it meant a lot." 

This marked the third consecutive season a member of the RH Prep boys team has earned the Wooden Award, given to the division's MVP. The past two years, Chris Koon was honored with the Wooden Award. 

"Chris was a great leader for the past few years," Tan said. "To be able to play with him makes me a better leader both on and off the court." 

While Koon turns his attention toward college, Tan reveled in getting to not only play with and learn from his teammate, but win alongside him. 

"The biggest part of the season, to me, was winning a CIF championship," Tan said. "Winning a third one with Chris, it meant more than all the other ones." 

Last season, RH Prep won the CIF-SS Division 4A title after winning a CIF-SS Division 5A and a CIF State Division V title to close out the 2016-17 season. 

But it was Tan who proved to be too much for opposing teams. 

"When you win CIF, everyone has to contribute," Kitani said. "All the guys did well, but he was the person they would have to first try and figure out how to stop." 

Kitani noted that in some of his post game talks with opposing coaches, they were quick to admit they didn't send enough help to guard Tan. 

"If the coach did say anything, it was the fact that they shouldn't have one guy defend JT," Kitani said. "Teams that (didn't double team him) saw him have games of 25-30 points." 

What Kitani saw from Tan this year was an evolving basketball game that slowly took him further from the low post. 

"He is a guy who is improving, and adding to his game," Kitani said. "Initially, it was get the ball in the block and attack the basket. Now he's got a 5-6 foot turnaround, and a 15-foot jumper." 

RH Prep loses Koon and four others to graduation. Along with Tan, the Huskies return sharpshooter Troy Murphy and Vaughn Flowers, along with Benny Gealer, who saw big minutes as a freshman, 

"Our expectations next year are to show we're still around, and to make an impact," Tan said ."WE want to do better than we did (this year). We want to win another CIF-SS title, and state." 

Kitani can already foresee how fun it will be come next season, especially with Tan continuing to grow not only physically, but with basketball. 

"JT is starting to evolve, and it'll be really fun this offseaon and next year to see how good he's going to get," Kitani said.

"He's suppose to grow another inch or two. Big guys always evolve late, and we'll see where life takes him."

(0) comments

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.