After suffering a broken ankle during the fourth game of the football season, Westland High School junior DeShawn Evans was determined to return to the basketball court as quickly as possible.
He missed the first six games and made his season debut Dec. 27 in a 64-57 loss to host Briggs in the first round of the Bruin Holiday Tournament. The game was one of the more competitive contests this season for the Cougars, who were 0-9 overall and 0-3 in the OCC-Central Division before playing Hilliard Davidson on Jan. 5.
"I was hoping I'd be back quickly, but the amount of weeks kept going up," said Evans, a 6-foot-2 guard/forward. "I was optimistic and I tried to work on it and get back as soon as I could. I'd say I'm at about 95 (percent). I'm getting there. I'm just trying to trust it more and then I'll be 100 percent."
Evans, who was in his second season as the Cougars' starting quarterback, suffered a broken right ankle on his team's second offensive play in a 41-28 loss at Franklin Heights on Sept. 15. He sustained three broken bones and a torn ligament and underwent surgery Sept. 19.
"After the surgery and (having) screws (inserted in his right ankle), I thought if he could play basketball this year that'd be unbelievable," said former football coach Kyle Goebbel, who stepped down after the season. "Ever since that happened his attitude immediately -- even that night when he came back to the locker room -- was I'm going to work hard, I'm going to get back and don't worry about it, and sure enough he has. He's worked his butt off."
Along with his contributions on the court, coach Rob Hayes also is looking for continued leadership from Evans. That leadership was apparent in the closing minutes of a 102-51 loss at Linden-McKinley on Jan. 2, as Evans was the first player off the bench to greet his teammates during a timeout.
"He's grown a lot in that area and he's doing a very good job because I know he's very frustrated with some of the things that are happening as well just like everybody is," Hayes said. "He's doing a lot of work to become a leader and he's becoming a leader, and we all have to grow around him and as a group to make sure we don't lose that in all the negativity."
Evans also displayed leadership during the football season, returning to support his teammates on the practice field just three days after being injured.
Hayes is looking for improvement in the second half of the season.
Westland trailed Linden 31-22 late in the first half before being outscored 71-29 the rest of the way. Zach Winegardner led the Cougars with 16 points, followed by Evans with 10.
"I didn't expect this at all," Hayes said of the 0-9 start. "(There have) been a lot of factors leading towards that, and I still believe there's a lot of growth that's happening and improvement that's happening, but it's definitely not where I expected us to be."
Girls team falls to Patriot Academy
Despite another strong effort from point guard Trinity McClure, the girls basketball team dropped a 60-47 decision to Patriot Academy on Jan. 3 at home.
McClure scored a game-high 37 points and was averaging 28 points before Westland played Davidson on Jan. 5. The Cougars entered the game 2-8 overall and 0-4 in the OCC-Central.
Westland defeated Hamilton Township 48-34 on Dec. 29 at home as McClure scored a game-high 22 points.
The Cougars face a pair of school-district rivals this week, as they play host to Franklin Heights on Tuesday, Jan. 9, and visit Central Crossing on Friday, Jan. 12.
Westland lost to Central Crossing 74-62 on Dec. 5 as McClure scored 48 points.
Wrestling team places 17th at West Jefferson
The wrestling team finished 17th (152 points) in the 22-team West Jefferson Invitational on Dec. 29 and 30 behind champion Millersburg West Holmes (433).
Edgar Cruz was fourth at 113 pounds and Andrew Sherman was fifth at 182.
Westland competed in the Kevin Cleveland Memorial Tournament on Jan. 6 at Dublin Scioto.
Below are the coming schedules for the Westland boys basketball, girls basketball, gymnastics and swimming & diving teams:
Jan. 9 -- At Franklin Heights
*Jan. 12 -- Home vs. Central Crossing
Jan. 9 -- Home vs. Franklin Heights
*Jan. 12 -- At Central Crossing. The Cougars lost to the Comets 74-62 on Dec. 5.
Jan. 10 -- At Marysville* with Central Crossing and Buckeye Valley
SWIMMING & DIVING
Jan. 8 -- Whetstone Invitational at Columbus Aquatics Center
Jan. 13 -- Central Crossing and Teays Valley at Pickaway County YMCA