When a team has the No. 44-ranked recruit by ESPN in the class of 2021, the No. 5 recruit in the class of 2022 and another tall phenom freshman entering the program, one would expect said team to win a region championship.
At least that's how most of Region 1's girls basketball coaches feel about Fremont High.
The Silverwolves bring back virtually their entire team: Junior center and BYU commit Emma Calvert, sophomore forward and top five recruit Timea Gardiner, and starting guards Halle Duft and Averee Porter.
Then they add Maggie Mendelson, who just finished her freshman volleyball season for Fremont where she opened a can on the rest of the region. Head coach Lisa Dalebout, though, wants to pump the brakes a little bit.
"We’re kind of cautiously trying to find ourselves, we’re not making big predictions. We have some high expectations as far as the heartache we experienced last season," she said.
The Silverwolves were in a similar position at the start of last year with tons of talented returners and a phenom freshman coming into the program. Their season ended in the state semifinals against Bingham.
"It gave them kind of the perspective of it’s hard to win, it's hard to win consistently and it's something that you can't take any game for granted and just a healthy respect for every opponent and every moment," Dalebout said.
Calvert, the reigning Standard-Examiner All-Area Girls Basketball MVP, averaged 16.4 points and 6.5 rebounds per game last year while shooting 64% from the field. She verbally committed to BYU in August.
Gardiner played for the Team USA U16 national team this summer at the FIBA Americas Championship in Chile, averaging 7.0 points and 6.5 rebounds per game for the team that won the gold medal. Her recruiting has blown up over the summer.
Schools such as UConn and Oregon have visited practice, but one wouldn't know that by talking to Gardiner.
"To have a five-star recruit on your team is pretty neat, but she doesn't act like it. She’s just really grounded," Dalebout said.
If most expect Fremont to be the overwhelming favorite, then the battle for second place is perhaps the most intriguing from an unknown standpoint.
Might it be Davis, which returns a plethora of skilled guards and wing players? The Darts had one senior last year and started mainly juniors and sophomores. Sophomore guard/wing Kylee Mabry picked up an offer from Montana State over the summer.
Could it be Syracuse, which brings back three of its top five scorers from last year — Rachel Godfrey, Baylee Sanders and Rainee Schenck — its top rebounder in Godfrey, and a knack for winning tight games?
Or will Layton, which graduated six seniors that either started or played big minutes off the bench, reload and not miss a beat?
Weber had its best overall season since 2011-12 by going 13-9 overall. The Warriors return starter MaKaylee Nye (6.5 points, 4.2 rebounds per game) as well as Katie Nye and Lexy Shaw. Apart from those three, the Warriors will be inexperienced.
Roy is back in Region 1 after two polar opposite seasons in Region 5: a region title-winning year in 2017-18 and a winless year in 2018-19.
The Royals were incredibly young last year and are still very young heading into the 2019-20 campaign, but head coach Carolyn DeHoff thinks Roy will be able to put the losing streak in the rearview mirror.
"We’re better because we’re a year older and we know what we’re doing in the system," DeHoff said.
DeHoff said a majority of the kids in the program right now played with the team in the spring and summer, so she said the team's in a much better place heading into this season compared to where it was this time in 2018. Key returners include senior Bailey Hill and sophomores Sha'Kyra and Sha'Keria Joiner.
Northridge had a down year in 2018-19 but the Knights ended it with a 50-45 win over Layton which was the first time the Knights had beaten the Lancers in a very long time.
Clearfield gets three of its top five leading scorers back: Taevey Davis, Miranda Mansfield and Makailey Cregger.
Fremont and Roy's region opener at Roy has been moved from Dec. 20 to Dec. 10 because Fremont is playing in the Nike Tournament of Champions in Phoenix, Arizona from Dec. 18-21.
The move to an eight-team region from a seven-team region has created some scheduling backlogs early in the season.
Davis and Fremont each play three games between Dec. 3-6, Weber has back-to-back games three different times in December and Roy has five games in a 10-day span between Dec. 3-12.
There are no new coaches in the region. The longest region title drought belongs to Weber, which hasn't won one since 1991 (Northridge has never won a region title but the school opened in 1992).
The rest of 6A
Defending state champion Bingham lost its top scorer but returns everyone else. Copper Hills, the 6A runner-up that went 23-3 last year, also returns a handful of starters. All signs point to Fremont being right in the mix once all is said and done.
Skyridge and Corner Canyon, big schools in affluent areas, jump up from 5A, so the 6A classification should have a handful of teams vying for the title.