ETV News stock photo by Dusty Butler
For the first time in 32 years, Emery will take the basketball court without Todd Jeffs. The longtime coach retired last year, leaving a vacancy at the program. Former player Jeff Cisneros will now take the helm during a difficult 2020 year.
With limited practices throughout the summer and fall due to coronavirus, every team is behind schedule. “That’s one thing that puts us at a disadvantage, being a first-year program, is that we are trying to put in a new system while everyone else already knows theirs.” Cisneros quickly added, “It will be different, but there are no excuses.”
Emery basketball has been a mainstay for decades, so Cisneros is not forced to build a program, but rather maintain its reputation. With that in mind, he will be adding his own flavor into the mix. Cisneros will give more kids opportunities to play at all levels. “I’m looking for about 26 guys. I’ll also be scheduling more freshman games. I want more kids to be involved.” It looks like that point of emphasis will continue up to the varsity level where seven or eight players will see valuable minutes. “The best guys are going to suit up. I want a lot of guys in, getting experience,” added Cisneros.
The Spartans lost all five starters from last year, including a talented point guard in Brax Jensen. Jensen, along with the many guards before him, had an amazing ability to get around defenders and create for themselves and others. “We don’t have that this year,” said Cisneros. As a result, Emery will look for a strength in numbers approach with the ball. “We will have to be creative. Everyone has to be involved,” he explained. “Everyone has to score 10-12 points and grab five rebounds every night.”
Defensively, the Spartans will “play everything” according to Cisneros. “I’ve always believed you play to the team you have. We would like to press because we have the athleticism and we lack size. We want to run a lot.” He went on to say that he has been impressed with the effort he has seen from his team. “They were at every open gym, even during football, and they were playing for a region title this year. They’ve worked hard. That’s what excites me.”
That effort will be key to the Spartans’ success this year as the team tries to learn a new system offensively. “Defense is all effort. They play great defense, but not offense,” Cisneros said. “Anytime you play good defense, you give yourself a chance.” Emery will hope that its defense can keep it close while the offense tries to come together and become fluid.
As usual, Region 12 will be full of talented teams. Carbon, Emery, Richfield and San Juan will all fight to be in the mix this year. “Carbon looks better than us on paper. They are bigger and athletic. Richfield always works hard and they don’t miss a beat. But you never know, those four are all even. They could finish in any order.” Cisneros concluded, “Our goal is to compete for a region championship and a state title. That’s the way it’s always been here, even when I played. Depending on how the year goes, positive or negative things can happen. We have as good as chance as anybody.”