PLAIN CITY — Among the many conversations Dallin Hall had with his high school basketball coach, Corey Melaney, over the years, there was one where they talked about winning a state championship.
Melaney told Hall that you dream of your basketball season ending two ways: either making a game-winning shot or having the ball as time expires and chucking it into the air.
Hall got the last rebound in the state basketball championship game on Leap Day at the Huntsman Center, chucked the ball into the air and ran around looking for someone to hug as a blue-clad bedlam broke out on a court that has seen many epic celebrations in its time.
“I was just ecstatic, so happy and running towards the whole team and they were all running towards me,” Hall said.
The team hugged, jumped, celebrated with the student section, took pictures with the state championship trophy, took a picture in front of the scoreboard that read ”Fremont 55, Davis 52,” and cut down the nets.
It was a fitting culmination to Hall’s Fremont basketball career, which consisted of this year’s state title plus two region championships to add to the trophy cabinet.
Hall averaged 22.6 points, 7.7 rebounds, 7.0 assists and 1.9 steals per game this season, and is 2020 Standard-Examiner All-Area Boys Basketball Most Valuable Player for the second year in a row.
Above all, the championship is fitting because this year’s Fremont team had 10 seniors on its roster.
Many of them had grown up with each other, played basketball with each other, talked and dreamed about standing on a ladder with a pair of scissors and snipping off a piece of nylon to keep the rest of their lives.
“Honestly, it puts so much more on it. The memories we have together, I mean, the amount of ball we played not just at Fremont but before, we’ve been crushing it for a long time. To win the ultimate goal with them is a dream come true to me,” Hall said.
If there’s one memory that will stick with Hall, it’s the raw emotion of the locker room celebration: “Probably that final chant in the locker room after the game.”
Melaney walked in, the team doused him with water, everybody danced, yelled and cheered. It was one of the last times they’ll all gather together.
Many of those seniors are planning on serving church missions after high school. Some will head to college.
Hall opened his mission call two weeks after the state tournament and is assigned to go to the Philippines this summer, though the COVID-19 pandemic may continue altering how The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is planning for future missionaries.
Obviously a lot can change in two years, but the plan for Hall right now is to play basketball at BYU upon returning from his mission.
When Hall announced his commitment to BYU, he posted pictures from a visit he took to Provo, wearing a white uniform with blue lettering and blue trim.
The color scheme is the same as the Fremont blue and white he donned the past three seasons, so maybe it was fitting that Hall stuck with the blue.
College recruiting in this day and age is a completely unmitigated circus, what with intense speculation, attention and prodding from several different directions, all centered around where a teenager is going to enroll for college.
“It would get repetitive, like people always asking me, telling me, ‘You should go here,’ but ... I would always think back, it’s better to have options than no options, just try to be grateful,” Hall said.
In the end, Hall had plenty of options: BYU, Utah, Utah State, Weber State, Saint Mary’s, Oregon State and even a brief conversational period with defending national champion Virginia.
The process and thinking about recruiting was stressful, Hall said. One thing that helped him was a couple college coaches told him that he didn’t need to respond to every single call and text message immediately.
He was initially going to announce his commitment in the November early signing period, then decided not to. The season started with the weight of his decision still on his shoulders.
“I never saw that it affected his play one bit. It didn’t show if it did,” Melaney said.
Did it negatively affect Hall’s on-court play? Short answer, no.
The long answer: if it did negatively affect his on-court play, then just think for a minute how gaudy his statistics would’ve looked.
Keep in mind, this is someone who finished with career averages of 20.4 points, 6.4 rebounds, 5.7 assists and 1.4 steals per game while at Fremont, plus a 59-16 record as a starter, two region championships and one state championship.
“I think it was pretty easy, the coaches didn’t bother me too much because they’re in season ... we achieved our goal and I think it’s because I and my team had that as our main focus all year so I didn’t get sidetracked,” Hall told the Standard-Examiner earlier in March when he announced his commitment.
Mark Pope, BYU’s head coach, was the first head coach to offer Hall a scholarship, though the assistant coach who first saw Hall and wanted to offer him was Eric Daniels, who was on Pope’s staff at Utah Valley before moving to Weber State this season when Pope was hired at BYU.
Once Pope became the BYU head coach and figured out the situation for the 2019-20 team, he offered Hall a scholarship.
Pope’s staff was spotted at numerous Fremont games this year, including a home game against Davis on Jan. 3 when the whole staff sat in the front row next to the student section.
“I connect with the coaches there and they’ve been recruiting me since sophomore year and they’ve been relentless, and I feel like that’s where I can go to maximize my potential as a player and a person,” Hall said.
The fact Pope offered Hall a scholarship almost immediately after taking the BYU job spoke volumes to Hall. People told him to go to a school where the coaches really wanted him.
CARING FOR THYSELF
Before raising the state championship trophy over his head, before snipping down a part of the net he’ll keep forever, before dancing in the locker room with his teammates, before dousing his head coach with water, before learning Donovan Mitchell was really impressed with his style of play, Hall went to a birthday party.
Melaney threw his daughter a surprise birthday party before the basketball season started at Flowrider, the indoor surfing pool in downtown Ogden.
Most of the basketball team went to the party, including Hall, though he chose not to partake in the indoor surfing.
The reasoning, according to Melaney, was simple.
Hall didn’t want to get injured before his senior year, one where the Silverwolves, and Hall himself, had considerable hype and expectations before the first game was even played.
If anything, that underscores just how serious Hall was about his senior season.
“I would say there was probably a bit more urgency as far as, you could tell this is (his) senior year, this is it, he was a man on a mission,” Melaney said.
Part of that was a better focus on his physical conditioning.
“I spent a lot of time in the weight room just trying to get more athletic and explosive, and I think it showed this year, and took better care of my body with rolling out (muscles) and things like that so I could be healthy,” he said.
The summer between his sophomore and junior years, Hall says he was “overdoing it” and ended up getting a stress fracture in a vertebrae in his back, putting him out of commission for a couple months.
Injuries from overuse are a risk kids take when they specialize in one sport. Hall has specialized in basketball since the eighth grade.
“I think you do need to give your body a break and I found that out two summers ago, but you just gotta give it a break and work different muscles,” he said.
Hall felt he was more physically prepared for each game this season and he needed it because, unless the Silverwolves were leading by double digits late in the game when Melaney could empty the bench, Hall played every minute of every game, save for the season opener.
When the state tournament started in late February after 23 games and numerous practices over three months, Hall was still ready to play at a high level when Fremont needed him the most.
In the state semifinals, Hall played all 32 minutes in a 72-66 win over Layton, scoring 38 points.
He shot 49.3% from the field this season, meaning his conditioning and legs held up just fine. Hall shot 5 for 10 from 3-point range against Layton.
Less than 24 hours later in the 6A title game, Hall scored 16 points, assisted 10 baskets, pulled down seven rebounds and helped hold what had been a nearly unstoppable Davis team to just 52 points.
But it’s the last rebound Hall grabbed that he and everyone else there will remember for a long time, the one that set off the celebration and fulfilled a seasons-long dream.