CLEARFIELD Nick Thompson made headlines in the offseason after announcing his decision to play basketball for Weber State. Thompson was under no obligation to commit to the Wildcats as soon as he did. But the senior forward didn't want recruiting interfering with what could be his most memorable season at Clearfield.
"I've already got somewhere to go, so I can focus on this team right here," Thompson said.
The Falcons are three years removed from reaching the 5A semifinals and there's reason to believe they can be in a position to make another playoff run. Several starters return from last year's team and, outside of Davis and Weber, much of Region 1 has taken a dip this year.
In girls basketball, Clearfield is more accustomed to being one of the top teams in the region. The Lady Falcons hope to reclaim that contender status this season, after losing eight of 11 and suffering a first round playoff exit a year ago.
With a nice blend of experience and talent, first-year coach Rebecca Packer is convinced her players can take a step forward.
"I feel like we're still learning to gain confidence in ourselves," Packer said. "We do have an athletic team. We just need to be able to
recognize that and use our strengths."
GIRLS: Packer, a former assistant at Davis, heads up a Clearfield program accustomed to winning state titles and dominating much of its Region 1 competition.
But after finishing second in region two years ago, the Lady Falcons slipped a little last season. Clearfield was not much of a factor in the region, finishing 10-11 overall and going in as the region's final seed in the playoffs.
The Lady Falcons are counting on returning starters Alexis Adams and Kylee Young to keep the train on the right track this time around. Young anchors the defense down low and is the team's leading rebounder. Adams is difficult to contain on both ends of the floor leading the team in points and steals.
That's why the senior's recent absence from the starting lineup has been a painful one for Clearfield. Adams broke her pinky finger in a 57-48 loss to Bountiful. In their first game without her, the Lady Falcons scored only nine first-half points in a 63-30 blowout loss to Skyline.
Adams did not need surgery on her hand or pins set into her finger. But she is still expected to miss two to three weeks.
"I had never broken a bone. Sitiches. Nothing," Adams said, noting her frustration with the timing of the injury. "I thought I was drinking enough milk."
Clearfield should not fall backward too much even without Adams. Juniors Shelby Wilcox and Aubrey Taylor have made important contributions early in the season.
Taylor leads the team in assists despite never playing junior varsity ball like many of her teammates. Wilcox offers another strong presence around the glass. Her per game average of six rebounds is second only to Young's.
BOYS: In many ways, all the pieces seem to be in place for Clearfield to finally enjoy another breakout year.
The Falcons have not been much of a basketball power, with only one winning season since 2001. But with seniors Cameron Evans and Nick Thompson giving Clearfield a definite talent and size advantage, it's hard seeing this team as anything less than a region title contender.
Evans is a three-year starter and led the team in scoring as a junior with 13.2 points per game. Thompson, a co-leading scorer with Evans this season at 14.6 points per game, is another force down in the post.
Evans knows the duo can create mismatches with their size, but doesn't think that means the team can sit back and coast through Region 1.
"It's good to have it, but it's not like we're going to win off of just height," Evans said.
While that's true, Clearfield is not exactly hurting in the backcourt either. Jordan Hanson was the team's starting point guard as a sophomore and has made rapid strides with his passing ability as a junior. At shooting guard, Jordan Wheeler is emerging as a defensive specialist.
Of course, defense is a key point of emphasis for the entire team. The Falcons leave practices and go into games with the goal of holding a team's field goal percentage to less than 40 percent.
They were never better defensively than against Hillcrest. The Huskies converted only 28 percent of their shots from the field and lost 39-21 on their homecourt.
Even then, the Falcons saw room for improvement especially after allowing Hillcrest a pair of easy baskets in the final minute."We wanted them under 20 points," Evans said. "That's what we were hoping for."
Clearfield Falcons girls basketball
League: Region 1
Last season: 10-11, Fifth in Region 1, lost in 5A first round
2007-08 Predicted Finish: n/a
Head coach: Rebecca Packer
Key returning players: Alexis Adams, forward/guard, Sr.; Kylee Young, center, Sr.; Tiffany Stringfellow, guard, Sr.; Brittany Stringfellow, guard, Sr.
Key newcomers: Shelby Wilcox, forward, Jr.; Aubrey Taylor, guard, Jr.; Hannah Frye, guard, Soph.; Britlie Silvester, forward, Soph.; Felicia Justice, forward/guard, Sr.
Nov. 28 Clearfield 43, Hunter 42
Nov. 30 Taylorsville 49, Clearfield 41
Dec. 4 Woods Cross 51, Clearfield 42
Dec. 7 Clearfield 55, Alta 44
Dec. 11 Bountiful 57, Clearfield 48
Dec. 14 Skyline 63, Clearfield 30
Dec. 18 Clearfield at Davis, 5:30 p.m.
Dec. 20 Syracuse at Clearfield, 5:30 p.m.
Dec. 28 Jordan at Clearfield, 2 p.m.
Jan. 4 Clearfield at Viewmont, 5:30 p.m.
Jan. 8 Northridge at Clearfield, 5:30 p.m.
Jan. 11 Weber at Clearfield, 5:30 p.m.
Jan. 15 Clearfield at Layton, 5:30 p.m.
Jan. 18 Fremont at Clearfield, 5:30 p.m.
Jan. 22 Davis at Clearfield, 5:30 p.m.
Jan. 25 Clearfield at Syracuse, 5:30 p.m.
Jan. 29 Viewmont at Clearfield, 5:30 p.m.
Feb. 1 Clearfield at Northridge, 5:30 p.m.
Feb. 5 Clearfield at Weber, 5:30 p.m.
Feb. 8 Layton at Clearfield, 5:30 p.m.
Feb. 12 Clearfield at Fremont, 5:30 p.m.
Clearfield Falcons boys basketball
League: Region 1
Last season: 11-11, Fourth in Region 1, lost in 5A first round
2007-08 predicted finish: Second
Head coach: Curtis Hulse
Key returning players: Nick Thompson, 6-9 forward, Sr.; Cameron Evans, 6-6 center, Sr.; Jordan Hanson, 6-3 guard, Jr.; Jordan Wheeler, 5-10 guard, Sr.; Steve Brimhall, 6-5 center, Sr.;
Key newcomers: Justin Parkinson, 6-0 guard, Jr.; Darin Wilcox, 6-1 guard, Sr.; Jordan Brandley, 5-10 guard, Sr.; Alex Nelson 6-3 forward, Jr.
Nov. 30 Clearfield 78, Bonneville 62
Dec. 4 Granger 49, Clearfield 36
Dec. 7 Cottonwood 62, Clearfield 58
Dec. 12 Clearfield 39, Hillcrest 21
Dec. 14 Clearfield 56, Roy 46
Dec. 18 West at Clearfield, 7 p.m.
Dec. 20 Clearfield at Brighton, 7 p.m.
Jan. 4 Viewmont at Clearfield, 7 p.m.
Jan. 8 Clearfield at Northridge, 7 p.m.
Jan. 11 Clearfield at Weber, 7 p.m.
Jan. 15 Layton at Clearfield, 7 p.m.
Jan. 18 Clearfield at Fremont, 7 p.m.
Jan. 22 Clearfield at Davis, 7 p.m.
Jan. 25 Syracuse at Clearfield, 7 p.m.
Jan. 29 Clearfield at Viewmont, 7 p.m.
Feb. 1 Northridge at Clearfield, 7 p.m.
Feb. 5 Weber at Clearfield, 7 p.m.
Feb. 8 Clearfield at Layton, 7 p.m.
Feb. 12 Fremont at Clearfield, 7 p.m.
Feb. 15 Davis at Clearfield, 7 p.m.Feb. 19 Clearfield at Syracuse, 7 p.m.