Evan Svoboda waited three years for his opportunity to prove himself as a leader on the football field for Red Mountain High School.
As a senior, he was finally given that chance, though it came during arguably the most difficult year in the history of high school sports in Arizona due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Still, he managed to lead both by example and vocally for the Mountain Lions despite the team struggling with injuries in a condensed season.
Seven games, however, wasn’t enough for Svoboda, who aimed to make the most of his senior year. So, for the first time in his high school career, he transitioned after football season to the court, where he has quickly become one of the Mountain Lions’ leaders as a 6-foot-6 forward.
“He is the type of kid I want to coach. Someone who shows up every day, plays another sport and is in a leadership position in that other sport,” Red Mountain basketball coach Chris Lemon said. “Right away guys gravitate toward him and he’s been a joy to coach.
“I wish I had him as a sophomore and junior.”
Svoboda helped Red Mountain’s basketball team start the pandemic-delayed season strong.
The quarterback turned power forward has brought a new sense of physicality to the Mountain Lions, even when that aspect of his game was frowned upon on the gridiron. He quickly became one of the players other lean upon for guidance on the court, much like was the case in the fall.
And overall, Lemon has seen improvement in Svoboda as a leader, too.
“He’s not a very vocal kid, but he just leads,” Lemon said. “He’s always there early. I’m always opening up the gym with Evan behind me. I wish I had that in every single kid I’ve coached. He’s been the quarterback where all eyes are on him in the huddle. He knows how to handle a leadership role.”
Svoboda’s size and physical presence in the paint has allowed for several second-chance opportunities on the offensive end of the floor for Red Mountain. Against Casteel earlier in the season, his ability to rebound on both ends of the floor helped the Mountain Lions pull away late in the game to secure the victory.
He still admits there is room for improvement in terms of skill and transitioning from football shape to basketball, but his leadership traits have so far not been impacted.
“You have to have a dog mentality in football and also bring it to the court,” Svoboda said. “I think that has kind of clicked with the team right away.”
Last fall, Svoboda was given a shot at quarterback for the Red Mountain football program. Even after sitting behind then-senior Hyrum Boren as a junior, Svoboda showed flashes in both practice and limited game action that caught the attention of colleges.
He started to see offers roll in despite being the backup but was set on taking advantage of the opportunity as a senior when he was officially named the starter in preseason camp. Though, his chance to finally take over the offense came in the most difficult year for high school sports in history, as the Mountain Lions were forced to miss a game due to COVID-19 related problems in Desert Ridge’s program.
With a limited schedule and only eight teams making the state tournament as a result, there was little room for error every week. Red Mountain struggled to find a consistent rhythm week-to-week and ended the season 3-4 and out of the playoffs for the first time since Mike Peterson took over as head coach. But still, Svoboda took advantage of his opportunity and completed 87-of-156 pass attempts for 1,286 yards and 13 touchdowns. He also rushed for 144 yards and another touchdown.
While his primary focus now is on basketball, Svoboda continues perfecting his craft on the football field. He finds time to throw at local parks and improve his footwork. At the end of January, he self-toured Marshall University in West Virginia, which offered him as a preferred walk-on.
He continues to mull over his options for college. Whether he continue his football or basketball career at this point is dependent upon whether an offer is extended to him on the court. For now, he hopes to continue building his legacy as a Mountain Lion, one that can be passed down to younger players as they come up through athletics programs.
“I haven’t really thought much about whether I will play football or basketball, we will have to see what happens,” Svoboda said. “I hope to leave a legacy of hard work, something that can be handed down and expected from the younger kids. I feel honored when kids can look up to me.”