BY JEFF FALK
‘I have to remind myself that some birds aren’t meant to be caged. Their feathers are just too bright. And when they fly away, the part of you that knows it was a sin to lock them up does rejoice. But still, the place you live in is just more drab and empty that they are gone.’ – from the movie ‘The Shawshank Redemption’.
Evan Horn has all the stuff great players have.
A competitive drive that is unmatched by opponents.
An uncanny knack for making the players around him better.
An unparalleled skill set.
An ability to thrive in a team setting – so much so that he blurs the cause-effect lines between individual and team.
An innate ability to make plays.
An unwavering will to win.
The capability to help change the culture and climate of a program.
And the temperament to leave behind a legacy.
Horn, a 6-1 senior guard, is at the top of the stretch of a career the likes of which the Cedar Crest boys’ basketball program has never seen before. Though he only recently became a football player playing basketball, Horn is also one of the most influential ‘ballers’ to ever play the game in Lebanon County.
“I wouldn’t say talking about myself makes me feel uncomfortable,” said the humble and unassuming Horn. “But I wouldn’t be able to do anything without my teammates. Sometimes the way people make it, Cedar Crest is all Horn. It’s so not true. I don’t like talking about what I did. As long as we win, I’m happy.
“I’d say the accomplishment I’m most proud of is inspiring the younger generation,” continued Horn. “That football at Cedar Crest isn’t a joke, or basketball at Cedar Crest isn’t a joke. That and knowing the things I’m doing are not just affecting my team.”
“He’s the most competitive person I’ve ever been around,” said Cedar Crest head coach Tom Smith. “He’s played his best in our biggest games. It’s something he was born with. He has a refusal to lose. And it starts in practice. He doesn’t lose in practice.
“But the other thing that makes him so special is he’s such a good person,” Smith continued. “He’s a better person than he is an athlete. His character sets the tone for the type of athlete he is.”
The Cedar Crest boys’ basketball tradition isn’t as rich or steeped in history as some. But generally, Steve Kuhn is recognized as the best player the Falcons have ever produced. Kuhn led the Falcons to a Lancaster-Lebanon League title in 1976, before going on to play at Penn State.
Other notable names from Cedar Crest’s past include Kyle McConnell, Dylan Spang and Todd Scipioni. But Horn has played a major role in the most successful period in Falcon basketball history.
“Everyone’s going to have an opinion,” said Horn, who recently committed to playing football at New Hampshire. “I just want to be known as a winner. If they think of Cedar Crest and the Horn kid, I just want them to think he was a winner.
“I don’t care about the individual stats, and I don’t know about the other players,” added Horn. “But I guess I’d say, ‘Let me play them. Let’s see who would win.’ But I don’t really care about that. Whatever.”
“I would definitely argue he has to be at the top of that list,” said Smith. “He belongs in the conversation. I don’t know if there’s anyone who has been able to do the things he’s done. I think you could argue he’s right up there with anyone. Knowing Evan, my money is on Evan.”
Before Horn arrived on the scene, Cedar Crest was a program just hoping to compete in Section One of the Lancaster-Lebanon League. Since permanently cracking the starting lineup in the middle of his freshman season, the Falcons and Horn have amassed an astonishing overall record of 78-17 – a mark that included a 27-4 campaign in 2014-15.
Over the past three seasons, Cedar Crest has won two Section One championships, two overall L-L league titles and been to a third L-L championship game. The Falcons have made two appearances in the District Three Class AAAA title tilts and have made two trips to states.
“I just remember talking to Kobe Bolanos in football and he said, ‘Are you going to play varsity in basketball too?,” said Horn of his freshman season. “I said, ‘Probably not’. I didn’t try out because I had broken my finger. But coach gave me varsity shorts. I got a chance to play in one of the first games of the year against C.D. East, and I did the best I could. I took advantage of an opportunity and the rest is history.
“If you look at basketball, before my freshman year, we weren’t really good,” Horn continued. “My freshman year we went 16-10. My sophomore year, we had a great year, and last year was last year. I wouldn’t say I did it. Me and my teammates turned things around a little bit. We set the bar high for both football and basketball.”
“We knew about him coming in,” said Smith. “He didn’t practice prior to his first varsity game. But on the second night of our tip-off tournament, he had to play minutes. He kind of took over the basketball game. The biggest thing for me, as a freshman, he was so cool, calm and collected. He just stepped up big. His demeanor, his competitiveness was most impressive, even as a young kid.”
So what happens when a kid as competitive as Horn does lose? Well, the grieving process is stretched.
“It was probably like a month,” said Horn, when asked how long it took him to get over a 2014-15 season-ending loss to Lower Merion in the second round of the PIAA playoffs. “It was a tough one to take. I was with those guys (10 seniors) for so long. I couldn’t believe I wasn’t going to play another game with them. That could’ve been a signature game for us. I think nine out of ten times we could’ve beaten them. It was tough to let go.
“I definitely play more competitive than anyone you can imagine,” Horn continued. “I hate to lose. I just have the attitude in my mind that I want to do the best I can. I just want to win. I have the mindset: ‘The kid across from me, I’m better than him’. And I want to show everyone.”
“I definitely think it’s a bigger picture than just Evan doing it by himself,” said Smith. “But he’s been a huge part of the cultural change. Every time he’s stepped on the court, the Cedar Crest basketball team has not done anything but win.
“It’s both Evan and the players he’s had around him,” continued Smith. “Obviously we’ve had some of the best basketball teams Lebanon County has ever seen. He’s been a big part of that. He makes everyone around him better.”
With a tremendous ability to finish around the basket, Horn is an accomplished scorer. But Horn’s skill set allows him to influence the outcome of games without scoring, perhaps more so than few from the county who have ever come before him.
Horn employs quickness, speed, hand-eye coordination, ball-handling skills, strength – bigger defenders sometimes seem to simply bounce off of him – jumping ability, harnessed aggression. fundamentals and anticipation to simply ‘make plays’. The list of Lebanon County student-athletes who have entertained Division One college scholarships in both basketball and football is a short one.
“The way I play the game, I’m a much better shooter now,” said Horn. “I’m a little more aggressive now. My role has definitely changed. In my freshman year, my role was to stop the other team’s best player and go hard to the basket.
“I really like basketball,” added Horn. “Basketball puts you on an island and you’ve got to be ready to play all the time. There’s no faking being good out there.”
“It starts on the defensive end,” said Smith. “Ever since he’s been a freshman, he’s drawn the other team’s best player, every game. I’m comfortable with whoever his ‘check’ is, he’s going to hold him below his average. He handles the ball. He’s not flashy. But he’s fundamental and strong. He’s 6-1 and rebounds with the best of them. Where does his skill set stop? I don’t know.
“His overall game in general has gotten better, in all aspects,” Smith added. “Offensively, he’s gotten more aggressive. The thing he’s improved upon most is his shooting, but he’s never been a bad shooter. I think he’s made some strides in all aspects of his game.”
The final chapter in Horn’s scholastic sports story is yet unwritten. While the Falcons sport a very respectable 14-5 record and a trip to the District Three Class AAAA playoffs seems likely, everything beyond that is a question mark.
“I think we’re playing well,” said Horn. “In the big games, we haven’t played to the best of our ability. We weren’t ready to play, and that’s on us.
“Obviously, it’s at a point where I’m scoring more and shooting more,” continued Horn. “I’m trying to take the leadership role heavier. That’s the biggest thing.”
“With Evan, the major role difference is he’s got to be our number one scorer,” said Smith. “Everything goes through him. Before, we were relatively balanced.”
It may be that we will only fully appreciate Horn’s importance to the Cedar Crest boys’ basketball program when he is gone.
“I try to keep it out of my mind and try to enjoy every moment,” said Horn. “But I do think about it. It’s been a heck of a ride. I’ve made some great memories.
“We have a bunch of good kids coming up,” continued Horn. “We have one of the best (coaching) staffs in the district, and they’re not going anywhere. They just have to keep working hard. I hope I made a mark like, ‘this is what you’ve got to do to be successful’.”
“It was a very difficult decision for him,” said Smith of Horn’s choice of football over basketball. “We spent a lot of time talking to him about what’s next for him. I think he’s committed to getting ready to play football for New Hampshire. But I don’t know if we’ve seen the end of Evan Horn playing basketball. We’ll see.”
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Section One Standings
2015-16 Cedar Crest Boys’ Basketball Results
|4:30 PM||W 74-68|
|7:30 PM||W 58-38|
|7:30 PM||W 55-49|
|7:30 PM||W 52-46|
|7:30 PM||L 55-84|
|7:30 PM||L 69-75|
|7:30 PM||W 58-53|
|7:30 PM||W 59-49|
|7:30 PM||W 70-44|
|7:30 PM||W 58-46|
|7:30 PM||W 55-49|
|7:30 PM||W 72-43|
|7:30 PM||W 66-53|
|7:30 PM||W 50-34|
|7:30 PM||W 66-46|
|7:30 PM||W 44-32|
|7:30 PM||L 42-63|
|7:30 PM||L 59-63|
|7:30 PM||L 53-68|
|7:30 PM||Cedar Crest High School|
|7:30 PM||Lower Dauphin High School|
|7:30 PM||Penn Manor High School|
PIAA District Three
Class AAAA Power Rankings