Red Devils place three on All-Conference teams

Red Devil junior Kai Barker rceceived 4A West All-Conference Honorable Mention recognition for the 2022-23 basketball season. Barker averaged 5.7 points and six rebounds per game. (HERALD PHOTO/Don Cogger)

Class 4A All-Conference basketball selections were announced earlier this month, with four members of the Evanston High School boys’ basketball team receiving postseason recognition.

Red Devil senior Bryton Smith was named to the 4A West All-Conference first team, sophomore Clayton Cook was named to the 4A West All-Conference second team and junior Kai Barker was named 4A West All-Conference Honorable Mention.

“We’re involved in a team sport, but within the team, we have some individuals that played well and were able to get some votes for postseason honors,” said EHS head coach Rob Watsabaugh. “I’m super-excited for those guys individually – I know they would like to see the success of the team over themselves getting awarded, but also, you need to recognize some individuals that played a big role for us this season.”

Bryton Smith

Smith led the team in scoring, with 13.9 points per game; he also led the team in steals, averaging 1.1 per game, finishing with a team-high 27 on the season. He was first on the team in 3-pointers, sinking 55 at a 33% clip, and finished the season as a 65% free throw shooter, sinking 60-of-92 from the charity stripe.

“Bryton was definitely an athlete for us,” Watsabaugh said. “He was our leading scorer, so he was the subject of a lot of scouting reports in teams that we faced. He could shoot, he could drive and he could finish – he wasn’t an incredible three-level scorer, but he could score at all three levels. He started rebounding the ball well, and playing some defense for us. I’m proud of him making first team – the way he matured and grew for our team throughout the season was great to watch. He made the most of his senior year.”

Clayton Cook

As a sophomore, Cook averaged 6.3 points and four rebounds per game; he was third on the team in points scored, with 150. A 54% free-throw shooter (20-for-37), Cook led the team in 2-point shooting percentage (62%), sinking 65 of 105 attempts.

“Clayton started to find his groove a little bit – we just need to continue to grow his confidence,” Watsabaugh said. “We’ll get him back in the gym after track is over. He did some things really well for us – he’s a fundamentally sound basketball player, and playing the four or five for us as a sophomore, I thought he did a pretty good job, he took that role well. I think he shot the ball at about 64% from inside, so we obviously want to keep getting him the ball. His size and his length – he’s gotten a lot stronger, so we’re proud of him for hitting the weight room. We’re excited for the offseason, really put some time in and get him to a level of being one of the best big men in the state.”

Kai Barker

Barker averaged 5.7 points per game, and led the team in rebounding, averaging six per game; he finished with 143 rebounds for the season. A 57% free-throw shooter (39-for-68), Barker also led the team in blocks, with 14, averaging .6 per game.

“Kai has a huge upside as well,” Watsabaugh said. “He’s a great defender – he can guard a guard, he can guard a big – we want to look at putting him on our opponents’ best offensive player in the future, because I think he’s up to that task. When he puts his mind to it, he can get above the rim and rebound, and I love seeing that. He showed that in a few games, where if he wanted the rebound, he was going to go get it. It’s fun to watch him chase down the ball off the rim.”

The Red Devils finished the 2022-23 season with a 7-17 record, 3-3 in conference. The team graduates just three seniors in Smith, Dylan Liechty and Caleb Welling, and will return a solid roster of players with varsity experience next season.

“As a team, we still have a ways to go,” Watsabaugh said. “Our plan is to really attack hard this summer, and pick up where we left off – we don’t have room to go backwards. We need to start next season at the level where we finished. That’s the goal – continue to grow and improve this offseason.”