Riverton resident joins 1,000 point club at Juan DiegoFeb 22, 2021 10:51AM ● By Catherine Garrett
Juan Diego senior Talon Valdes recently eclipsed the 1,000 point career mark. (Photo courtesy Drew Trost)
By Catherine Garrett | [email protected]
Before he entered high school, Juan Diego Catholic High School basketball player and Riverton resident Talon Valdes set a goal to score 1,000 points during his four years on the Draper campus. On Jan. 20 with a baseline jumper against Ogden, the senior netted that achievement.
“I just remember feeling in that moment that all the hard work was paying off,” Valdes said. “I felt very blessed.”
“This is something I figured Talon would do as he’s started for us since his sophomore year,” head coach Drew Trost said. “I’ve been watching it all along the way and I’m so proud of him.”
The 6-foot point guard, who is called “a walking bucket because he can score at any point from anywhere he wants,” according to Trost, said he has always remembered his dad’s words in trying to build on his competitive drive and desire to get better. “My dad would always tell me that someone is working harder than you right now,” Valdes said. “So, I have to do whatever it takes to be quicker and get to my spots.”
Trost said that Valdes is always the fastest player on the floor which makes it tough for opponents to guard him, but as his coach he has a front row seat for the whole picture. “God has definitely blessed Talon with a lot of talent, but what people don’t always see is how hard he works,” Trost said. “He is literally always the last to leave the gym.”
He currently leads the 20-2 Soaring Eagle team—who just wrapped up their seventh consecutive region title—in scoring with nearly 21 points a game as well as assists and steals and head into the 4A state tournament as the No. 1 seed.
“In addition to being third on our all-time scoring list here, he’ll also probably finish with the most steals and top three in assists,” Trost said. “He’s just gotten better and better at getting his teammates involved. It’s great to see him lift his team to a higher level.”
The son of Ken Hopkins and Stacy Valdes of Riverton has been playing basketball since he was 4 years old and quickly embraced the sport where he “hates to lose.”
Coach Trost said he visited with Valdes when he was in the eighth grade at St. John the Baptist to discuss his future role in the JDCHS program. “I let him know that he would probably not get much varsity time his freshman year with the point guard we had, but that he would get pushed in practice and be ready to go the next season,” Trost said. “Instead of changing schools because he didn’t want to sit on the bench, he worked hard to get himself into a position to start every game since his sophomore year with the exception of a few games he was injured for.”
“If you really want something, you can’t just take the easy route and you need to be patient,” Valdes said.
As a sophomore, Valdes averaged 13 points for his team, “using his speed to get to the rim,” according to Trost, who added that the All-Region First Teamer didn’t have a great shooting touch at that point.
By his junior season, he was putting in nearly 40% of his three-point attempts and his 20 points per game were recognized as he was named the Region Most Valuable Player.
“It’s been awesome to see Talon maximize his skills,” Trost said. “He’s such a joy to coach and to watch the huge impact on our program that he has had. In fact, with him as our starting point guard, our team has gone 54-11.”
Valdes said that a huge turning point for his self-confidence was Juan Diego’s first-round playoff game last season against Crimson Cliffs where the Mustangs were favored. He scored a career-high 28 points and left the court knowing that “if we can beat them, we can beat anybody.”
The senior credits assistant coach Essliey Tan, a former JDCHS player, who has spent countless hours after practice in being able to play at a high level. “He has put in so much time with me to see me get better,” Valdes said. “I definitely wouldn’t be where I’m at with my game without him.”
Valdes has plenty of business left this year on the court as the Soaring Eagle squad is aiming for the 4A state title before he turns his attention to securing a spot on a college roster.
“It’s going to take all of us to be there to win state and have a good understanding of our roles and then going to execute,” Valdes said.
Trost said he has full confidence in his senior in leading this team to their big goals. “It’s every coach’s dream to have your best player be your point guard and you certainly don’t have to work as hard as a coach to get the ball in his hands since it’s already there,” he said.