Boys basketball preview: Davis, Fremont, Farmington are favorites in loaded Region 1
Here’s the thing about Davis High’s boys basketball team. It had a good year in 2020-21, winning both the 6A state and Region 1 titles.
The Darts might be very good again because they return a handful of starters and bench players from last season, and enter this year as an overwhelming favorite in the coaches’ eyes.
But they’ll have plenty of competition coming from Fremont, which returns the equivalent of six starters from last year’s 13-9 team, and Farmington, last year’s Region 5 champion and 5A state runner-up who brings back the best player in the entire state.
Here’s an alphabetical, team-by-team look at Region 1 boys basketball:
Clearfield returns its top two scorers from a 1-19 team, junior center Austin Mitchell (5.7 points and 4.8 rebounds per game) and senior forward Dawson Gardner (4.8 ppg).
They lead a group of seven solid returners who include senior forward Braylen Carlson, senior forward Taggert Purser, senior forward Ethan Lowry, junior guard Lincoln Church and junior guard Tanner Hittle.
Head coach Curtis Hulse believes the team has good depth, decent size and athleticism.
Scoring was the Falcons’ big issue last year — they averaged 36.2 points per game and allowed 56.6 on defense — but they’ll test their offense out in the season’s first two games against good defensive teams Viewmont (Nov. 23) and Bonneville (Dec. 1).
Davis enters as the clear-cut favorite in the region, and maybe even the state, owing to the Darts winning both titles and returning most of their key players from a team that shot 47% from the field and defensively held opponents to 45.6 points per game on average.
Senior guard Rex Sunderland, who picked up scholarship offers from Idaho State and Utah Valley this summer, led the team with 13.1 points to go with 3.7 rebounds, 3.7 assists and 2.8 steals per game.
Davis’ additional returning starters/contributors are senior guard Colby Sims (9.9 ppg, 2.5 apg), senior forward Henry Ihrig (8.5 ppg, 5.0 rpg), senior forward Max Painter (4.6 ppg, 57% shooting), senior Sawyer Cottrell (3.4 ppg) and senior guard Tate Garff (2.4 ppg).
Garff shot 10 of 21 on 3-pointers last year, while Sims shot 42% on 3-pointers and 78% at the foul line.
The Darts graduated their heart-and-soul guard Chance Trujillo, but they have plenty of talent and experience to win some trophies again.
One new thing is Davis is hosting the Northern Utah Shootout tournament from Dec. 9-11 with Box Elder, Weber, Woods Cross, Olympus, Sky View, Taylorsville and West Jordan.
Along with its home tournament, Davis has four nonregion games against Lehi, Pleasant Grove, Lone Peak and American Fork before heading to Mesa, Arizona for a tournament Dec. 20-23.
Defending Region 5 champion and 5A state runner-up Farmington is a new addition to Region 1.
The Phoenix is obviously headlined by BYU-bound guard Collin Chandler, who averaged 22.3 points and 5.0 rebounds per game last season while shooting 48.9% from the field and 40.3% from 3-point range.
Chandler’s the only returning starter, so Farmington’s going to be inexperienced both playing in the varsity game as well as playing with each other.
Sophomore Paul Beattie, who scored double-digit points off the bench a couple of times last year, figures to be a contributor if not a bona fide starter.
Along with having a top-100 recruit on the team, coach Kasey Walkenhurst said the team has three starters over 6-foot-5 and thinks the team can get out and run with anyone on the floor.
The new rivalry games against Davis are Jan. 7 at DHS and at FHS on Feb. 1.
Fremont enters as a region contender on the account of returning the equivalent of six starters: senior Dakota Argyle, junior post David Calvert, junior forward Christian Blanch, junior guard Boston Hadley, junior guard Braden Flinders and sophomore guard Hunter Hansen.
Hansen, the team’s second-leading scorer, missed the back half of last season with a knee injury and Hadley started in his place after that. Blanch is expected to miss at least a portion of the season’s early going after having knee surgery from a football injury.
Head coach Corey Melaney said experience is a strength, as is versatility. Key nonregion games include Dec. 1 against Riverton, Dec. 7 at home to Bingham, Dec. 15 at 5A favorite Olympus, Dec. 28 at Sky View and Dec. 30 at home to Bonneville.
Layton graduated its top four scorers including college basketball-bound Ethan Potter (Utah Valley) and Preston Squire (Northwest Wyoming). The Lancers are looking at something resembling a rebuild.
They’ll likely be led by sophomore guards Mekhi Martin and KJ Miller, the latter of whom came off the bench and averaged 5.0 points per game last year, and senior forward Connor Wilson. Martin started at point guard as a freshman last season.
Head coach Kelby Miller said he expects seniors Brighton Palmer and Mitch Johnson to contribute as well.
“This group, as a whole, does not have a lot of varsity experience in big moments. There will be a learning curve that they will have to get over quickly,” Miller said.
The nonregion schedule gives Layton zero favors. The Lancers open with Copper Hills, Viewmont, Skyridge and Westlake. The two Layton-Davis rivalry games are Jan. 4 at LHS and Jan. 28 at DHS.
New coach Mike Russell takes over a team that went 7-17 last year and upset Cyprus in the playoffs.
Syracuse has three returning starters: senior point guard Brock Williams (10.1 ppg, 2.8 rpg, 2.3 apg), senior guard/forward Brandon Clark (8.4 ppg, 2.4 rpg) and junior guard/forward Kaden Ericksen (7.2 ppg, 3.4 rpg).
Williams, at point guard, had a 1.3 assist-to-turnover ratio last season, Clark is probably the team’s most athletic player who can score from anywhere and Ericksen shot 44 for 49 (89.8%) at the foul line last year.
“Our team’s greatest strength is how well these guys have bought into the our new coaching staff and the idea that the star of our team is the team,” Russell said.
Russell feels like Syracuse is under the radar and could benefit from that. The Titans’ nonregion schedule has a medium level of difficulty despite six of the nine games being on the road.
The Titans graduated leading scorer and rebounder Connor Saunders (20.7 ppg, 6.6 rpg), who signed with BYU for track and field.
Weber’s senior-heavy team went 12-11 overall last year, 9-5 in Region 1 and lost in the second round of the playoffs at No. 2 Pleasant Grove.
The Warriors return two starters, senior guards Cannon DeVries (12.7 ppg, 4.2 apg) and Tukker Higgs (3.1 ppg). Higgs had a four-game stretch last January during which he averaged 10.8 points per game on 64% shooting from the field and 57.9% from 3-point range.
Several players including sophomore Hunter Schenck, junior Ethan Shupe, junior Jaxon Shaw, junior Griffyn Doughty, senior Stryker Rashid and senior Stockton Short are expected to start or contribute in some way.
“This is a fun group to coach. They’re very competitive and together. We are skilled offensively but will look to build our identity through our defense,” head coach Landon Cosby said.
Weber will have a couple of early season struggles, namely some injuries and having less time to practice with the full team than others thanks to the football season bleeding into basketball tryouts and practice.
The Warriors have a mixed bag in their nonregion schedule with a handful of winnable games and another handful of tougher ones. The two Weber-Fremont games in region play are Jan. 11 at Weber and Feb. 8 at Fremont.