The Beavers are in the mix for arguably the best player in the Nation and the top-ranked guard, in Evina Westbrook. She’s a Senior at South Salem High School, in Salem, Oregon. Westbrook has helped lead South Salem to back-to-back 6A state championships, played on the USA Women’s U-18 National Team that won a world championship this summer in Valdivia, Chile. And she has also won two straight national championship playing AAU ball for the Cal Stars.
Get to know her with this short clip:
Despite her immense talent she has an incredible work ethic.
South Salem High School Head Coach Nick McWilliams was nice enough to answer a few questions regarding Westbrook for me:
Q: When did you first know that Evina Westbrook was a elite player?
NM: I first saw “E” play when she was a 6th grader playing with my daughter's 8th grade team. She showed signs of greatness at that time but it was in the summer after her freshman year of high school that she took a huge jump and I knew she was going to be an elite player. She has continued to work hard and improve over the past couple years.
Q: What makes her a great teammate?
NM: E is all about winning and will do whatever it takes to make that happen. Her teammates recognize this and follow that lead. She also encourages her teammates to do more and is willing to give up some of her game to help others be better and for the team to reach its potential.
Q: How does she seem to be handling the ever growing attention and does it affect her or the team in anyway?
NM: I think she has handled it very well, enjoying her official visits and willing to take time to meet with the many coaches and programs that are pursuing her. I think the team is excited for her and enjoy the fanfare that comes with having another great player in our program.
Q: What's the outlook for your team this season as a whole?
NM: We will definitely miss our three senior starters who graduated in June. But we return two starters in E and Dani Harley and have the best player in the country in E, so that is a good starting point. We have some good young players but many have very little varsity experience, so it will take a lot of development from our younger players for us to get the third straight championship. If we improve as individuals and as a team, we have a shot at the Three-Peat.
Evina Westbrook recently cut down her list to six. And Oregon State is solidly in the mix.
As Evina’s head coach mentioned, she is driven to win and succeed. She is the type of talent that can lead a program to multiple championships. Just check out some of her recent accomplishments.
- Member USA U18 National Team in 2016.
- Oregon Gatorade Player of the Year in 2016.
- Second team 6A All-State in 2015.
Evina grew up playing against boys, she didn’t play with or against girls until the 6th grade. Among the boys Westbrook grew up playing with are her brother, L.J., a 6-4 guard at Casper College (a junior college in Wyoming), and their cousin Avry Holmes, a 6-2 junior guard who starts for Clemson. L.J. has offers to play Division I ball next season.
Kelly Sopak, who coaches the San Francisco-based Cal Stars, said he first saw Westbrook play when she was in an otherwise-all-boys league in Salem said "Evina was the most skilled and also the most poised player out there, she had a swagger about her, and this was early on, in eighth grade. But it was a swagger with poise."
Evina Westbrook played with current Beaver and former South Salem F Katie McWilliams (coach Nick McWilliams daughter) for 2 seasons and they helped lead SSHS to a State Title in 2015. Katie commented on Evina’s upcoming decision saying “I personally believe that wherever Evina ends up to further her education, she will bring that University a title”.
Let’s hope that University is Oregon State! I will be following South Salem’s season closely and will also update Evina Westbrook’s recruitment, so stay tuned.