Louis Lesmond and his new basketball teammates at Evanston have at  least one thing in common — they all agree that Chicago winters are “brutal” in the words of the French import.

But Lesmond is starting to show that he has something else in common with the rest of the Wildkits, the ability to make his teammates hard to guard.

Lesmond’s return from the injured list should make the state’s No. 9-ranked team even more potent down the stretch. He netted 12 points, one of four Wildkits in double figures, as ETHS destroyed Niles North 79-65 Friday night in Skokie.

Lance Jones (22 points), Jaheim Holden (17 points, 5 assists, 5 steals) and Blake Peters (16 points) all boosted their season scoring averages as expected against a Viking team that spells defense with a small “d.” But Lesmond, in just his second game back following 6 weeks on the sidelines with an ankle injury, adds another offensive weapon to an already loaded ETHS arsenal.

His return means that opponents will still be unable to focus their defense on one or two Evanston players when he’s on the floor, and no one appreciates the fact that Lesmond will help stretch enemy defenses more than Wildkit head coach Mike Ellis. Central Suburban League South division opponents will have to add to their scouting reports now that the 6-foot-5 sophomore — who played for the Under 16 French National team before relocating to Evanston — is back in action.

Lesmond’s 12-point splurge Friday night came in just 13 and a half minutes of playing time as he battles to regain his cardiovascular strength after such a lengthy layoff. He dropped in 10 of those points in the fourth quarter to help the Wildkits maintain a tie with New Trier for the division lead.

“I was very frustrated when I got hurt,” Lesmond said. “I had just arrived here when it happened, and I was mad. It did help me to watch the others play while I was out. Now I know my teammates better, and this is a pretty good team.

“Over here the basketball is a lot of up and down and fast breaks, where in France there are a lot of long (offensive) sets. I like to run a lot and now I feel 100 percent, even with my cardio.”

“You have to feel for a guy like Louis, with all the barriers he’s had. It’s good to have him back,” Ellis said. “He gives us some length and he can stretch the floor with his (3-point) shooting. He’s able to bring size and skill. He’s trying to conquer a lot of barriers here, one day at a time, and I commend him for that. I think Louis is a Division I player and he’s going to be very good. The sky’s the limit for a guy like Louis. He makes the other guys hard to guard.”

Now 22-4 overall and 7-1 in league play, the visitors shot just 33 percent (6-of-18) in the first quarter on their way to a 15-13 lead. The margin grew to 30-21 by halftime, thanks to 10 points from Jones, and the Vikings couldn’t find anyone who could guard the senior standout in the second half, either. He finished with 22 points on 9-of-19 shooting from the floor and toyed with the Vikings every time he had the ball.

Sophomore Jaylin Gibson added a game-high 15 rebounds for the Kits, who defeated the Vikings for the second time this season. North saw its 7-game winning string snapped and fell to 16-7 overall, and 4-4 in CSL South play. Jalen Butler led the home team with 22 points.

“With as many layups as we missed tonight, we were able to finish as many,” Ellis pointed out. “Jaylin Gibson was terrific on the boards and he gave us a  lot of second and third opportunities.”   

Dennis Mahoney

Dennis Mahoney is sports information director for Evanston Township High School.

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