ETV News Stock Photo by Dusty Butler
Suffice it to say that there has been a lot of turnover in the Emery basketball program over the last couple years. When it comes to high schools, there is always a revolving door with the students, but the program is also trying to find some stability after three seasons with three different coaches.
Dave Justice is now back for his second stint and will lead a team rich with varsity experience. Luke Justice (Sr.), Wade Stilson (Jr.) and Brett Rasmussen (Sr.) all started last year for Emery, while Creek Sharp (Jr.), Matt Olsen (Jr.) and Easton Nielson (Sr.) all saw the court a lot. Justice spoke on the difference between his first year and this year. “It’s just a level of familiarity with each other, being more comfortable with each other… even like plays, offense and defense, even little things like verbiage. We hit the ground running this year.”
Another season together in the program will undoubtedly help the Spartans, but that is not the only feather in their cap. “We’re a long, athletic team. I’m hoping that pays off on our defensive end,” added Justice. “Wade led 3A in steals last year and Bret is that rim protector. We’re hoping that defense is our strength and that can transition into offense, steals, rebounds and outlets.”
Emery likes to play on the break and if the Spartans can force turnovers and get out in front of teams, that would turn into easy points. One focus entering the season is for the Spartans to avoid consecutive negative plays. Justice wants his players to rebound quickly from mistakes and mentally focus on the task at hand.
“Sometimes we can get down on ourselves a bit,” he said. “We don’t want to get too up or too down. We just want to get into that next play. We want to keep playing.” Adversity comes to everyone throughout a four-month season and the success of this Emery team will come down to its response.
The region will be a dog fight as the top four teams appear even on paper. Richfield was young last year, like Emery, but with another season under their belts, the Wildcats will be back in the mix. Canyon View brings back a loaded roster and Carbon always puts up a good fight.
“Our region is pretty even, one through four. Richfield has a great tradition. Canyon View has the league MVP coming back,” explained Justice. “Carbon is really well coached and scrappy. Richfield was young last year and we are right in the mix.”
Clearly, the Spartans will be in the hunt for a region title, but their main objective is getting back to the tourney. In Justice’s own words, “Our big goal is to get a home playoff game and then go to state. Obviously, it’s been a few years since we’ve made it to state. We want to be playing at SUU in February. And once you get to SUU, anything can happen. Just give us a chance.”
Justice concluded, “I’m super excited and ready to get going.”