2A Nuclear Conference Preview
Written by Hailey Stewart
Kazden Rogers, West Jefferson
Jordan Lenz, North Fremont
Blazen Burgess, Salmon
Coming off two state championship wins in 2019 and 2020, North Fremont is still the team to beat this season in the 2A Nuclear Boys Basketball Conference.
With a 7-1 conference record and a 22-2 overall record for the 2019-2020 season, the Huskies will look to play off the strengths the team posted the previous season.
Head Coach Shannon Hill said although recently graduated players such as Jordan Hess and Paul Wynn will be missed, there are several players new to varsity that will make an impact on the court.
Senior forward Jobie Palmer, junior forward-center Bronson Childs, junior guard A.J. Hill and sophomore forward Hank Richardson are some of the new players to the North Fremont varsity lineup that hope to make a splash this season by continuing the successes of their former teammates.
“Our defensive effort was good last year, and we hope to improve in that area as well,” Hill said.
Hill hopes the Huskies will improve on their rebounding efforts this season.
“I believe the entire conference will surprise people this year — from top to bottom it is a very competitive conference,” Hill said. “The teams that represent our conference at the state tournament generally do very well.”
As for Salmon High School, with four major varsity players gone due to graduation, the team will rely on newer talent.
Salmon Head Coach Jeremy Burgess said Brax Kaufman, a strong defender, and Aidan Hobbs, an “offensive threat,” will both be missed.
“Owen Tarkalson and Ryder Wood were supportive players and came off the bench to impact the game in several areas,” Burgess said.
Salmon posted a 4-4 conference record and a 10-11 overall record during the 2019-2020 season. The team will look to senior guard Blazen Burgess, senior forward Dillon Pilkerton, senior guard-forward Cayden Caywood and senior guard Giffin Mylan to head up the team with a strong sense of leadership this season.
Burgess said new varsity player Colton Kirby will also make a strong addition to this year’s varsity lineup.
“We are still in the process of determining our teams,” Burgess said. “We will definitely have some other new players on the varsity team. At this time, they will play reserve roles off the bench.”
In addition to new players, Burgess said Ben Sessions has been added to the Salmon coaching staff.
“He is very helpful during practice — helping instruct and observe,” Burgess said.
As the COVID-19 pandemic looms largely over all school events, Burgess said he and his team are simply happy to be playing the game they love at all.
“We are looking forward to every game and hope that we get to play it,” Burgess said.
Burgess said he saw a fairly balanced Salmon team hit the court last season. However, by losing some player height this season, the team looks to rely on speed.
“Our league was pretty competitive,” Burgess said. “If you did not show up, you were going to have a hard time coming out on top. We hope to be more consistent with our level of play.”
Burgess and his players hope to make a stronger showing defensively this year but shutting down the competition earlier in the game than last season.
“I think we will have a rather competitive conference,” Burgess said. “The team that can play consistently at a high level will be the team to beat. I feel that it could be any of our five league teams.”
With a similar 2019-2020 season to Salmon’s boys basketball team, West Jefferson looks to come off a middle-of-the-road season and jump into the 2020-2021 season with more of a competitive presence.
West Jefferson posted a 4-4 conference record and a 12-10 overall record last season.
West Jefferson Head Coach Dave Hadley said the team lost several players to graduation such as Landon Larsen, Braden Larsen, Branson Morton and Jael Garcia. Their combined athleticism, shooting range, leadership and overall competitiveness will be missed this season, Hadley said.
Even without several key players to last year’s lineup not returning, there are new players Hadley believes will make a direct impact on the court.
Kazden Rogers, West Jefferson’s new point guard will look to “run the show,” Hadley said. Blake Briggs, a strong shooter, will be key to the Panther offense this season.
Hadley and his team hope to bring back a strong defense this season, however, consistency will be key in making a strong showing against serious competition this season.
“We now need to get a more consistent effort on a night to night basis,” Hadley said.
Although Hadley and his team aren’t ruling out any 2A Nuclear conference opponent, Hadley has emphasized to his team that Ririe could bring some surprises during this season.
“I think Ririe may be the team that no one is talking about because North Fremont and Firth have to be the favorites, but they return some experience and have some younger kids that can really shoot,” Hadley said. “Coach Hamilton did a great job of bringing them along last year and will certainly be more confident with a year under his belt.”
Coming off a season Ririe would soon rather move on from, the Bulldogs will be looking for a fresh start this year.
After posting a 0-8 conference record and a 6-18 overall record, Ririe will need to make changes on both the defense and offense in order to compete within this aggressive conference.
In his second year as Ririe Boys Basketball head coach, Jordan Hamilton and his team may prove coaches like Hadley right by adding in a dose of confidence on the court this season.
Ending the 2019-2020 season with the second best record in the 2A Nuclear Conference, the Firth High School Boys Basketball Team must keep up with some of last year’s strengths in order to take over the top spot this season.
The team, led by Firth Head Coach Scott Adams, posted a 5-3 conference record and an 11-14 overall record last season.