Sugar-Salem High School
Conference: 3A Mountain Rivers Conference
Head Coach: Shawn Freeman
Years as Head Coach: 2nd
Record Last Year: 19-8
Photo By: Jason Duchow - #10 Josh Shirley
Written by: Matt Harris
Shawn Freeman enters his second year as the head coach of the Sugar-Salem Diggers. If there's one thing he knows this year compared to last: this season will be different.
Take that as you may. Could it be different results at the end of the year? Could it be different personnel to work with?
Sugar-Salem took home the 3A Consolation trophy at last year's state tournament, after edging conference-rival Shelley in their fifth and final meeting of the season.
Freeman would love to take home a trophy of a different color though. The one with a blue hue is the one his eyes are on.
The Diggers will have a different cast of players this year however.
Sugar-Salem graduated key contributors Gunnar Andersen and Cyrus Kidd. The Diggers were dealt another blow when 6'7 junior center Tim Fuller and his family moved to Arizona.
That's not to say that the cupboard is 'bare' in Sugar City.
The Diggers return three-point shooting threat Josh Shirley, 6'6 post Payton Anderson, 6'3 forward Ryan Hawkes, and the speedy Lee Gannaway to a roster full of new incoming impact players.
Joining the varsity squad includes 6'5 senior guard Hyrum Bonnell, alongside 6'4 junior forward Jed Baldwin. 5'9 senior Cameron Fleming and 5'11 junior Jace Hymas will help complete the guard line.
Freeman hopes that his squad can focus on three key points on offense this year: continuity, discipline, and free throw shooting. He said if they can excel in those areas, they will have a successful season.
Defensively, he said it all comes back to transition defense, a point that Sugar-Salem struggled in last season.
Fortunately for Diggers fans, their marquee matchups don't happen until later in the season, allowing the new squad to gel and find chemistry before it comes down to crunch time: the conference schedule.
The 3A Mountain Rivers Conference traditionally plays their entire conference schedule in the last 2-3 weeks of the season. For Sugar-Salem, it is no different this year. Freeman mentioned that all conference games are important, but especially against South Fremont and Shelley. Their matchups against the Cougars and Russets always seem to bring out the best in both teams.
In the end, Freeman said the whole experience of playing basketball comes back to one thing.
"It's to build and develop young men to believe in themselves and reach goals far beyond basketball."