Winning state championships would be enough for Evina Westbrook.
But others choose to honor her individually anyway.
South Salem High School’s 6-foot junior guard was named the Gatorade Oregon girls basketball player of the year after leading the Saxons to their second OSAA Class 6A state championship.
“I mean it’s definitely, like, an honor to be given an award like that,” she said. “I just really thought it was really great that they showed me love and everything like that.
“I don’t use it to boost me up or anything, like, ‘oh I’m the best player.’ I’d rather show you by my game and, like, how I play. Awards to me to me, they don’t matter that much, but it’s definitely a huge honor to get that award.”
Westbrook is the third South Salem athlete in three years to be named a Gatorade state player of the year – Katie Donovan was the softball player of the year in 2014 and Katie McWilliams was the basketball player of the year in 2015.
The three were teammates on South Salem’s 2014 team that placed fourth at the state tournament.
In addition to that, she is the third Gatorade state player of the year from Salem this school year: West Salem junior Ahmed Muhumed was the boys cross country runner of the year and West Salem junior Stuart Aeschliman was the boys soccer player of the year.
“I think it’s great to have that,” South Salem coach Nick McWilliams said. “I think that’s an encouragement to the kids that are coming up that this is something I can do, too. South Salem’s got three in three years and Salem itself has three in one year.
“It’s something to shoot for. I think that kind of stuff helps the quality of our programs and helps the reputation of Salem as a great sports town for high school and that kind of thing. These people who win these awards, the information gets out all over the United States and they’re seeing Salem, Oregon attached to it.”
Beyond the basketball court, Westbrook carries a weighted 3.11 grade-point average, has volunteered on blood drives with the Red Cross, is involved in church and has coached youth basketball for Inner City Players in Portland.
“They’re third and fourth grade, so it’s, like, two teams and (Canaan Chatman) asked me, these little girls would love it if you just came and coach,” Westbrook said. “They look up to you more than you know.
“I just go to practice when I can, when I’m not travelling or practicing. Me and my mom will go up there. They just love it … . We have tournaments down here in Salem sometimes or I come up and I coach them.”
Westbrook averaged 19.1 points, 4.8 rebounds, 4.1 steals and 3.9 assists per game as a junior this season.
The attention she is receiving is growing, and not just for what she does on the court.
She’s had dozens of scholarship offers from Division I colleges throughout the country, so many she lost count.
“Me and my family have been in control with it, especially with colleges and stuff like that and like calls,” Westbrook said. “None of this slows me down like oh, I’m too good. None of that.I can always improve at everything. I’m just using this to boost me up because I’m getting all this recognition and all this media stuff, but it’s not going to slow me down because I want to be better even next year.”
bpoehler@StatesmanJournal.com, (503) 399-6701 or Twitter.com/bpoehler