EVANSTON — And their team height won’t hurt. More on that in a future issue of the Herald.
Red Devil basketball, under the guidance of third-year head coach Lex Cornia, will get the season started on Thursday, Dec. 6, in tournament action at Riverton. The Red Devils will open with Sheridan and will also face Kelly Walsh and Natrona County on the weekend.
Last season, Evanston was ranked number one at various points during the season and was among the favorites to win the 4A state title. The team capped off the 2017-18 season with a 21-5 record and a third-place finish at state.
Gone is the most prolific one-two scoring punch in a number of years in graduated seniors Chase Critchfield and Braxton Hiatt who accounted for a little over 37 points per game.
“You don’t replace players like Chase and Braxton or Ethan Johnson and Seth Macdonald,” Cornia told the Herald.
“I feel like every team has its own identity, its own fingerprint and this team has unique weapons that last year’s team did not have, even though our team was exceptional last season,” the coach added.
The team did not have to make many cuts, according to Cornia.
“Our guys have been playing all year long and most of them know where they are. We try to have conversations early on and encourage kids to do what they would really like to do, whether that’s indoor track, wrestling, swimming and diving or other activities and pursuits,” Cornia added.
Concernibg the tough schedule to open the season, the Red Devils are right where they want to be, according to the coach.
“That’s exactly what we wanted. Preseason is about figuring out who you are, getting your timing down and being challenged,” Cornia said.
“And we will definitely be challenged. Sheridan returns Tristan Bower, who I thought was one of the premier players in the state last season and they have a sophomore in the post who is just really solid,” Cornia said of the Broncs.
“And in comes KW (Kelly Walsh), who was an overtime away from playing for the state title. They lost one or two players to graduation, but their core is back. They’re load. And Natrona is no slouch,” Cornia elaborated on the opening weekend’s opponents.
“We’ll come back from the opening weekend really knowing ourselves,” Cornia affirmed.
The competition will provide a gauge of strengths and areas on which to improve, but Cornia and assistant coach Brian Barker hope their team realizes it’s now how you start, but how you end the season, that really matters most.
“I hope our guys will keep perspective, win or lose,” the coach said.
“If we win and they start to get get inflated, it’s only December. And if we lose and they start to feel dejected or deflated, it’s only December,” Cornia added.
“The season is a marathon, not a sprint.”