PLAIN CITY — The plan from the start was to put Emma Calvert in an uncomfortable situation on the basketball court. Typically, that’s when you learn the most.
Fremont High’s girls basketball team had two new assistant coaches this year — Kealani Sagapolu and Amanda Wayment — both of whom are former college players and Fremont alums.
So in practice, Fremont’s starting five would play against seven players: five Fremont players and those two coaches who would double-team both Calvert and freshman post Timea Gardiner.
“I loved it, because I had to get prepared for it anyway. I didn’t want to get in the game and just have it come,” Calvert said.
In some ways it was a radical change from last year when not every girls basketball team knew about then-freshman Calvert and weren’t as prepared to deal with her.
Everyone knew who she was this season, what she was all about and how she played. Where the Silver Wolves had potent outside shooting last season, they had more of a dominant post presence this year.
Opponents almost exclusively played zone defense against Fremont.
“I bet we saw five minutes total of the season of man-to-man (defense),” head coach Lisa Dalebout said.
Yet still, Calvert couldn’t be stopped. The Fremont sophomore post is the 2019 Standard-Examiner All-Area Girls Basketball Most Valuable Player after averaging 16.4 points, 6.5 rebounds, 2.4 blocks and 1.3 steals per game.
Maybe more impressively, Calvert shot 64 percent from the field and 76 percent from the free-throw line.
As Fremont logged its second-straight unbeaten Region 1 championship and went to the state semifinals, Calvert scored in double digits in all but one game. And in that one game, she was sick and still scored eight points.
In the paint, it was almost a given that if she got the ball, she would score. It was pretty much automatic.
“To a fault, my team always looked at Emma to give her the ball ... that’s always a nice thing that you don’t have to berate your guards to get her the ball,” Dalebout said, smiling.
Dalebout pointed out three things Calvert saw marked improvement in: free-throw shooting (up to 76 percent this year) and leadership (Calvert was a captain this year as a sophomore).
Then defense. The Silver Wolves’ defense was aggressive this year and tried to direct traffic to the basket, where Calvert was waiting.
Calvert averaged those 2.4 blocks per game to go with an undetermined amount of altered shots, which aren’t officially kept as a statistic. Good rim protectors have that effect.
“She’ll get to the point where she doesn’t have to block every shot, but people are going to feel like she’s going to block every shot,” Dalebout said.
Calvert is 6-foot-4 and normally 6 to 8 inches taller than any guard that makes it into the paint. Then that guard has to quickly adjust her shot, reducing an already slim margin for making a tough basket to an infinitesimal size.
Last summer, college coaches took bigger notice of Calvert after her stellar freshman campaign that helped Fremont win a state championship.
She received her first scholarship offer from the University of Denver and then one from Brigham Young University. Weber State women’s basketball coach Velaida Harris didn’t take long to extend Calvert an offer as well after taking over the job.
“It’s kind of cool because you know that people are watching, so you always want to do your best,” Calvert said.
There’s several other schools in the picture right now, including Indiana and Northern Colorado, and NCAA rules allow for more contact between coaches and recruits when the recruit is a rising junior.
This summer figures to be particularly eventful in Calvert’s college recruiting world. That can be a very stressful thing to deal with.
Dalebout’s advice to Calvert, and all her players, is to be yourself, play ball and the rest will work itself out. Dalebout’s influence is felt other ways, too.
“She’s really good at getting you hyped up. Pregame stuff, she’ll come in and give you a speech and her speeches are like — you’ll want to fight a war for her when she’s done,” Calvert said.
The college recruiting attention, made just a little bit bigger by the number of schools that also came to watch Gardiner, didn’t negatively affect Calvert at all.
She just kept posting up and making baskets, no matter how many players defended her.