MERIDIAN — Rocky Mountain senior basketball player Kolby Lee always wanted to be just like his mother, Jill, on the court.
Jill was a state champion, a NCAA Division I player and the first ever Gatorade Idaho Girls Basketball Player of the Year winner. So when the forward was awakened at the crack of dawn by his father Brian with the news that he was the 2016-2017 Gatorade Idaho Boys Basketball Player of the Year, he was excited to say the least.
“It’s definitely really cool,” Kolby said. “I don’t know if there’s ever been any basketball mother-son duo to do that. She definitely inspired me to reach that goal. She’s always been pretty competitive with me.”
“Competitive” may be putting it lightly. Growing up, Jill took Kolby to basketball camps all across the country, including a Top 100 camp in Virginia featuring NBA players. But that wasn’t all. She also played against him as a kid, often in their family Olympic games, and in a loving way, reminding him of her own accolades.
Back in her playing days, Jill was not only the first Gatorade Idaho Girls Basketball Player of the Year during the 1985-1986 season at Preston High, but played at Utah State for a season, before transferring to Southwest Texas State for her final three years. As an Aggie, she was the team’s rookie of the year and the most valuable player before having to leave when the program folded after her freshman season. Still to this day, Jill holds a few Utah State records.
“My deal with Kolby was, I wanted him to be the very best he could possibly be,” Jill said. “I wanted him to be good enough where people had to come and watch him play.”
At 6-foot, 9-inches and 260 pounds, Kolby didn’t have any trouble getting people to come to him. During his four-year tenure with the Grizzlies, he was a three-time 5A Southern Idaho Conference All-League selection and was a two-time All-State selection.
But Kolby's rise to the top came with its fair share of difficulties, particularly last year as a junior. He missed half the season due to a stress fracture in his right foot. However, his mom was there every step of the way.
“That was a tough one for him, that’s for sure,” Jill said. “The season before, he was looking great, so for that to happen to him and not be able to do anything about it, was difficult to see.
“I told him to concentrate on the things he could control. He improved the mental aspect of his game during that time and developed such a high basketball IQ as a result. He went to every practice and built his teammates up by pushing them. I don’t know how I got so lucky to get him, but I’m sure glad I did.”
Kolby returned during the second half of his junior season, but it was this year where he really returned to form. He averaged 16.6 points, 9.3 rebounds and 2.6 blocks per game while shooting 65 percent from the field.
“He’s a true big man who likes to play inside, which is rare,” Rocky Mountain coach Dane Roy said. “He dominates when he has a single defender and is unselfish when double teamed. His leadership and selflessness took his game next level this season and he got that from his parents. They both really pushed him hard.”
Kolby’s play this season help Rocky Mountain to the best year in program history. The Grizzlies won 25 games in row, going 26-1 on their way to the first state championship in program history. It was a championship Kolby got to celebrate firsthand with his mom.
“It was awesome. I just gave her a big hug and smiled and she was so proud,” Kolby said. “It was one of the best moments of my life.”
Kolby will now once again follow in the footsteps of his mother by playing NCAA Division I basketball. He’s signed on to play college basketball at BYU.
“Growing up, I’ve always watched BYU. That’s always been my dream school if you will,” Kolby said. “When I started the recruiting process and coaches started contacting me, I wanted to be recruited by someone who loved me and that I’d fit in well.
“And that’s how it ended up being at BYU. BYU recruited me with almost every single coach they have on their coaching staff, which is pretty rare. A lot of times, coaches will only call you a couple times, but for BYU, it was all the time.”
But before he goes to play for BYU, Kolby will first serve a two-year LDS mission in Adelaide, Australia.
“I’m sure proud of the young man and the player he’s become,” Jill said. “I think he’ll do great over there. When he comes back, I have no doubt he’ll get back into shape and be just fine getting back on the court when the time comes.”