High school basketball: Defending champ Orem the clear favorite in 4A

Published: Tuesday, Jan. 1 2013 10:10 p.m. MST

Check out the Deseret News leaders to see the scoring, rebounds, steals and assists leaders in 4A.

Here’s a look back at the 4A preseason capsules that were published on Nov. 19.

There’s a lot of basketball still to be played before a 4A state champion is crowned in early March, but it’s no secret who everyone is gunning for.

Defending champion Orem is the overwhelming favorite to repeat this season with four returning starters from last year’s 24-1 team.

Among those starters is reigning 4A MVP Zach Hunsaker and BYU commit Dalton Nixon. The two averaged a combined 25 points last year, but this season the duo has upped that production to a combined 32 ppg.

With fellow starters Jordan Darger and Cooper Holt also averaging in double figures, it’s easy to see why everyone is chasing the Tigers this season.

“They’re legitimate athletes. I really like the Hunsaker kid — he’s a fine kid, a coach’s kid. He plays to win and is a tough kid,” said Provo coach Craig Drury.

Even though Orem is the favorite, there are certainly some quality teams in 4A capable of spoiling the repeat bid.

Sky View and Mountain Crest are quality teams up north, while Region 6 features several potential contenders with Bountiful and East leading the way. Olympus — which lost to Orem in last year’s title game — has emerged as a strong contender again too despite quite a few question marks to begin the season.

Ironically enough, Orem’s own region is where it might face its toughest competition as Timpview and Springville both put together undefeated preseasons.

Timpview’s emergence is no surprise. The T-Birds return four starters from last season, and that experience has made a big difference as Leo Roese, Taylor Roy and Dax Raymond are all averaging in double figures.

“Our chemistry has been good, our balance has been good,” said Timpview coach Perry Wildeboer. “I’m happy with our guys right now, but we still have a long ways to go to get to where we want to be.”

Springville features two returning starters, and they’ve been sensational during a 7-0 preseason. Bradley Kitchen is averaging 16.6 ppg, 5.4 rpg and 2.6 apg, while Max Schriener is averaging 13.1 ppg and 8.7 rpg.

Provo could play a factor in Region 8 race as well once Wesley Bosco returns from a hairline fracture in his foot. He could return as early as this Friday.

Region 8 isn’t the only top-heavy league in 4A.

Region 6 features three teams ranked in the Deseret News top 20 rankings — Bountiful, East and Highland — while Woods Cross is knocking on the door.

Bountiful returns two starters from last year’s 4A semifinal team, including Utah State commit Sam Merrill. The junior is among the leading scorers in 4A at 17.0 ppg, as is sophomore teammate Zac Seljaas at 16.3 ppg.

Ute commit Parker Van Dyke is averaging 27.0 ppg and has led East High to a 10-1 preseason. Van Dyke recently scored a career-high 41 points in a win over American Fork.

Highland and Woods Cross are capable of making some noise of their own in Region 6.

Olympus coach Matt Barnes graduated all five starters from last year’s runner-up team, and many expected a down year from the Titans. A surprising move-in and a legitimate desire to play defense has changed all that.

Sophomore Jake Lindsey, the son of Utah Jazz general manager Dennis Lindsey, is averaging 10.4 ppg this season, while Jaren Jones has emerged as the go-to guy for the Titans averaging 12.9 ppg.

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