Region 3 enjoyed certainly its brightest prep basketball moment in last season's 4A finale, which served as an all-league
Region 3affair as Bingham bumped off Taylorsville for the Miners' second straight title.However, both teams graduated some top talent - as did the other teams in the league. In addition to placing a high premium on teamwork, this year's lack of marquee-type individuals is resulting in a balancing of competition level in the eight-school league.
"I doubt the (region) winner is going to go undefeated," says Cyprus Coach Mark Wilson, mindful of Bingham's unblemished 14-0 mark a year ago.
Bingham: The Miners aren't the same dominating, polished, streamlined team that took two straight 4A titles, but a lot of that has to do with the departure of the likes of Kenneth Roberts, Justyn Tebbs and K.C. Tebbs. Still, this year's version of Coach George Sluga's team boasts a beneficial blend of depth, balance, size, quickness and experience.
Jeremy Crump, a 6-7 1/2 senior center, is the banger inside and joins the likes of 6-6 senior frontliners Jeff Nielsen and Jason Woodbury. Chad Newman, a 6-2 senior guard, leads a long line of quick, scrappy guards. Another new face to keep an eye on is 6-34 sophomore Barry Fullmer, who averaged 25 points a game as a freshman in sophomore ball last year.
Cyprus: Coach Mark Wilson's Pirates are back with a senior-oriented squad, with seven of the eight players of the main rotation being upperclassmen. "We've had good defense the past couple of years, but we haven't had the athletes to put the ball in the hole - and we're doing that now," Wilson said.
Senior starters include 6-0 guard Cade Osborn, 6-1 guard Chris Matagi, 6-3 forward Jeff Hatch and 6-3 center Matt Brimhall, with the four joined by 6-3 junior forward Everest Matagi. However, shooting will have to be a strength, since 6-3 is as tall as Cyprus gets this season.
Granger: The perimeter play will have to perform for the Lancers to be successful this season, and so far the performance has been lopsided. Keith Sigmagna, a 5-8 senior point guard, has been shooting 53 percent from the field and averaging 25 points a game while picking up a shooter's role for Granger. "He's one of the best guards I've had in the 17 years I've been coaching," says Coach Steve Paur of last year's sixth man.
What limited varsity experience Granger had can be found outside, what with Sigmagna and 5-10 senior Jack Ballard and 6-0 seniro Justin Johnson.
Hillcrest: Size is not a big issue again this year with the Huskies, who last year earned the title of "Smurfs in High Tops." Coach Steve Margetts plays up his team's lack of height: "We're so small our new uniform shorts come to mid-calf; we're not only small but skinny and slow."
But Hillcrest is also experienced and talented in the shooting department. Back are 6-1 senior forward Brian Kelly, 5-11 senior guard Scott Clark and 5-11 senior guard Scott Clark. Playing major varsity roles this season are the likes of 5-10 senior guard Ryan Kelly and 5-6 senior guard Scott Stephenson.
Hunter: The first-year Wolverines are the new kids on the block, so to speak. That mean's no players with previous varsity experience and plenty of underclassmen for Coach Alan Parrish, who might have to wait until next season before the dividends begin to pay off.
Dan Hancock, a 6-1 guard, is one of only two seniors on Hunter's varsity roster. The eight Wolverine juniors include 6-1 guard-forward Brandon Goates and 6-3 forward Eric Norman.
Kearns: The Cougars and Coach Weymouth Anderson are carrying nine seniors on the varsity roster this season, with several back from last year's one-win season.
The seniors seem to come in clumps - a couple at sub-6-foot, a couple more at 6-2, and the tall center trio of 6-5 Bart Hunt, 6-6 Brandon Thomas and 6-7 Andy Christiansen.
Taylorsville: Gone are the twin-tower days of Justin Nielsen and Ken Browning from last year's 4A state finalist team, but the Warriors do have some softer-yet-sizeable fresh faces in 6-3 senior forward Alan Crockett, 6-5 junior swingman Dave Gylling to help along a trio of even taller but still younger front-line types.
Coach Dan Leatherwood says much of Taylorsville's success rests on team quickness and teamwork, with a good share of the catalyst's reponsibilities falling on the shoulders of 5-9 senior guard Scott DeBenedictis, the only returnee with considerable varsity time. Joining him in the backcourt will be the likes of 6-3 seniors Kyle Green and Jeff Jenson.
West Jordan: The Jaguars are celebrating something new this season - new-found size. "Yes, for once in our lives," says Coach Grant Price. "We've always had good backcourt players in the past, but we've never had any size."
That size can be found in senior Doug Mabey and 6-7 senior Fernando Rodrigues, a transfer from Brazil via Granite, with Price saying that the latter "plays almost too unselfishly." And the backcourt remains in fine shape with 5-10 senior Jason Rowland and 6-0 senior Jared Halls averaging better than a dozen points apiece after being part-time varsity players last year.