PLAIN CITY — There are few things as certain in Utah high school basketball as an Emma Calvert layup in the low post.
For three seasons running, opposing teams have tried and largely failed to stop or even slow down Fremont High’s junior forward.
Her freshman year, she averaged 16.5 points per game on 59% shooting as a mostly unknown player that no team had an answer for. Fremont won both the Region 1 and 6A state titles in 2018.
Sophomore year: 16.4 points per game, 63.7% shooting, Region 1 championship, lots of double teams and zone defenses used by opponents.
Junior year: 14.6 points per game on a state-record 66.5% shooting for the season, Region 1 championship, again facing either a zone defense, some sort of post double team, and a lot of physical play virtually every game.
“You just have to expect it,” Calvert said of the constant defensive attention.
In the 2019-20 season, Calvert averaged 14.6 points and 7.3 rebounds per game, scored in double digits in 24 of the Silverwolves’ 27 games and shot better than 50% from the floor in 23 games.
For the second year running, Calvert is the Standard-Examiner All-Area Girls Basketball Most Valuable Player.
“I think she’s one of the most dominant low-post players I’ve ever seen play in our state. She commands that you either double team her or she’ll score. Even when she’s doubled teamed, she scores,” Fremont head coach Lisa Dalebout said.
Calvert took outside shots more this year and, despite stereotypes about forwards and centers being poor outside shooters, shot 12 of 36 from 3-point range.
On her club team, she says she’s usually one of the shorter post players and takes more outside shots in that respect.
Make no mistake, her bread and butter is scoring under the basket.
“The basket is my home, I do like it under there,” Calvert said.
But she has more confidence now to shoot a midrange jumper or 3-pointer. Calvert put it another way.
“If I’m on the high post, it’s probably Timea (Gardiner) or Maggie (Mendelson) that’s under the block and they’re both really good rebounders,” she said.
STEADY AS ALWAYS
Dalebout said Calvert is kind of a “Steady Eddy,” but it’s not just because of how reliable Calvert is on the court. There’s a reason Calvert’s been a team captain since her sophomore year.
“Emotionally, she’s really mature, she doesn’t ever get too high and she doesn’t ever get too low. She’s excited about the game, but she keeps things emotionally stable,” Dalebout said.
Dalebout said Calvert’s leadership, already one of her strong points, was even better this year. She was more assertive, more comfortable holding other people accountable.
It is a surprise, though, if Calvert misses a shot, especially one on the low post. Calvert does get frustrated, but one would have to be a keen observer to notice.
“I get really frustrated with myself even if I miss shots. Thats another reason I practice a lot ... I have to calm down when I miss, ‘Emma you’ve only missed one this game, you gotta calm down,’” she said. “It just helps to keep yourself calm the whole game.”
If Calvert does get frustrated for missing a shot, it’s because she knows why she missed, either from how the ball came off her hand or something else.
Calvert practices a lot, has practiced a lot and plans to practice a lot on a backyard basket since the COVID-19 pandemic won’t let her get in a gymnasium.
The pandemic has also put her club basketball season in question, but she’s doing a lot of basketball workouts to stay sharp: 150 Mikan layups, jump hooks, drop steps, up-and-unders, 100 16-17 foot jumpers, about 50 3-pointers, 50 free throws and then some dribbling. Every day.
“Basketball is one of the main things I do. It’s like all I do,” Calvert said.
One day, Calvert’s dad was watching a University of Iowa basketball game on TV and told Emma to come and watch. That’s when Calvert saw 6-foot-3 forward Megan Gustafson play.
Gustafson is something of a Hawkeye and college basketball legend, averaging 20.8 points and 10.8 rebounds per game and shooting 65.6% over a four-year career that spanned 135 games and 116 starts.
Basketball-wise, Gustafson was somebody that Calvert took notes on, since they play similar positions.
When Calvert’s Fremont career is over, she’ll not only be in Fremont’s record book in several categories but also the UHSAA record book.
Calvert’s 66.5% field goal shooting in the 2019-20 is a single-season state record, beating the previous record of 64.8% set in 2006-07 by Skyline’s Dani Peterson. Her 63.7% sophomore shooting ranks fourth.
Career field goal percentage isn’t tracked by the UHSAA, but one has to think Calvert would be either at or near the top.
Before the season started, Calvert verbally committed to BYU while on a visit to the school.
It took some pressure off her shoulders, pressure that comes with being a high-interest college basketball recruit.
“It did, because we have a lot of really good colleges come and watch Maggie and Timea and a lot of the girls. Me just knowing that I’m set, it really takes a lot of pressure because I don’t have to do anything special for anybody,” she said.
Her future college coach, Jeff Judkins, could theoretically spend more time and spend more of his allotted visits looking at other players, but Judkins was spotted at a handful of Fremont games this season to watch Calvert.
The BYU women’s basketball coaching staff also watched Fremont’s state tournament games at the Huntsman Center in February.
“It means a lot to me because thats one of the reasons I chose there ... he really wanted me to come play and he shows that by coming to my games,” Calvert said.
BYU has apparently been Calvert’s school all along.
When she committed, she posted two pictures on social media from when she was a lot younger: one of them was with her wearing a BYU sweatshirt, arms outstretched, holding a basketball in each palm like the famous Michael Jordan “Wings” poster.
The other photo was with her and Judkins, arms around each other and smiling.
THE STATE TOURNAMENT
Literally every person who walked out of Fremont’s locker room following the loss to Bingham in the state championship game had red eyes — that is, if they weren’t still holding back tears.
Dalebout buried her head in her husband’s shoulder and hugged her kids for minutes.
All season, Fremont was talked about time and again as one of, if not the, overwhelming state title favorite.
Losing that game hurt. Bad.
“We talked about, like, it’s nobody’s fault because we all kind of blamed ourselves. Even our coach, we had to tell her it’s not your fault,” Calvert said.
Her freshman year, Calvert exploded on to the prep basketball stage with 21 points, 10 rebounds and four blocks to lead the Silverwolves to the 2018 state title with a 61-47 win against Bingham.
The Miners ended Fremont’s season in the 2019 semifinals and the 2020 title game.
Adding to the 2020 heartbreak was losing point guard Halle Duft to a knee injury. Duft hurt her knee late in the semifinal win against Skyridge and at the time, no one thought it was severe.
Duft played 14 minutes of the state title game, had five assists with no turnovers and got pulled out when she tweaked her knee for a second time in the game.
Duft recently had surgery for what was a torn ACL, MCL and meniscus.
“I think we have to prepare for anything that’s gonna happen ... we just didn’t prepare for what actually happened,” Calvert said.
That said, the Silverwolves figure to contend for the state championship yet again since they had two seniors and most of their team — Calvert, Duft, Gardiner, Mendelson and Averee Porter — comes back.
Duft, in particular, is really good at throwing the perfect lob pass to Calvert in the post for an easy basket. So Calvert’s excited for next season, and who wouldn’t be?