When Evanston Township High School battled New Trier this month in a jam-packed, roaring Beardsley Gym in the 11th annual Bost Family Classic, the Feb. 3 game was unlike all the recent editions of the classic: For the first time in seven years, none of the game’s namesakes were suited up for Evanston.

The parents of Ryan Bost – Schawanda and Bobby – and their son Rashawn hold a gift after a July 2022 charity basketball game in Ryan’s memory at ETHS. Ryan was shot and killed in 2020 after graduating. Credit: Richard Cahan

Originally called the Bob Bost Classic in honor of Robert (Bob) Bost, Sr., who served as a longtime ETHS basketball and baseball coach and assistant principal at Haven Middle School until shortly before his death in 2012, ETHS switched the name to the Bost Family Classic after Ryan Bost’s death in 2020. With the 2022 graduation of Rashawn Bost, there won’t be any Bosts playing for the Wildkits anytime soon, but the family’s impact – monumental, both on and off the court throughout three generations – will live on.

“[If you] walk across or come across any person in the community of Evanston and ask them, ‘Have you ever heard of Bob Bost or Ryan Bost?’ I think almost everyone would say yes,” said ETHS boys basketball coach Mike Ellis. 

‘When they spoke, they meant business’

After a brief stint playing minor league baseball, Bob Bost (ETHS class of 1964) returned to Evanston. He spent more than two decades coaching different levels of baseball and basketball at ETHS.

Both Bob and son Bobby (ETHS class of 1986), Ryan and Rashawn’s father, had standout playing careers in Evanston as well.

An outdoor memorial to Ryan Bost after his death in a Nov. 9, 2020, shooting. Credit: Heidi Randhava

The combination of athletic prowess and community impact set a high bar for Ryan (ETHS class of 2019) and Rashawn (ETHS class of 2022), though it’s safe to say they were able to add to the already-impressive family legacy.

Bob Bost was a soft-spoken but respected leader in Evanston. To some degree, Ryan’s leadership was similar, Ellis said, something he recalled noticing during a heated timeout.

“As players were arguing, and the coaches were really looking to try and focus everybody in on what we needed to do, Ryan spoke up, loudly, and demanded, ‘No, this is what we need to do.’ You could have heard a pin drop in our huddle, all the eyes, from every player and coach locked into Ryan,” Ellis said. “Just like his grandfather, not speaking often, but when they spoke, they meant business.”

Several players recalled a similar situation when Ryan calmed the team in a practice leading up to a regional final matchup against Notre Dame in 2019.

After the practice was ended early by coaches, tensions remained high in the locker room, but Ryan was credited with lowering the temperature while emphasizing that the team needed to “get it together.” The Wildkits certainly did just that beating, Notre Dame by 12 points, then winning the next four before losing in the state championship game to Belleville West.

‘I owe so much to the Bost family’

Ellis, who left Peoria Richwoods High School for Evanston in 2010, credits Bob Bost for helping him get used to the foreign hallways of ETHS and the unchartered waters of the Central Suburban league.

On top of his impressive resume, Bob Bost is remembered for his selflessness and love for Evanston. Bob offered his wisdom, advice and expertise about Evanston to Ellis, and also took Ellis to away games, as he knew the ins and outs of each gym the Kits played at.

“I owe so much to the Bost family. … [Bob] tried to pass along everything he could to me and help in my transition to ETHS, and it just goes to show you what type of person Bob Bost Sr. is: He always put others first, and you can see a lot of those qualities and characteristics in Ryan as well,” Ellis said. “I feel like I’m always going to be indebted to the Bost family.”

Ryan Bost was called the heart and soul of the ETHS boys basketball team. Credit: Photo courtesy of the family of Ryan Bost

Ryan’s teammates noticed his selflessness even at an early age.

Ben Tarpey was a teammate of Ryan’s in basketball and football from elementary to high school, becoming close friends along the way. He first met Ryan through Amateur Athletic Union basketball at the age of 9. Tarpey joined the team without knowing any teammates – the entire team aside from him had played together the year before.

“After the first game, I was sitting next to my parents eating lunch, and it was just me with them, and then all of my teammates were in the opposite corner of the gym, hanging out over there,” Tarpey said. “I just felt like I didn’t fit in. I was 9 years old and pretty shy, and it was Ryan who went out of his way to come over, and in a joking way, he was like, ‘Man, what are you doing over here? We need you to come over here and be with us!’”

It was around that time that Ryan met Lance Jones and Jaheim Holden – the trio are now the winningest players at ETHS, with 110 victories. After playing a big role in their sophomore seasons, it was in their junior year that it truly became their team. Entering the year, the Wildkits were projected to be fourth in the conference, but the trio led Evanston downstate to a third-place finish.

“The Bost family was my family. It’s as simple as that, they took me in as one of theirs,” Holden said. “Anytime I was around, they treated me as if I was their son, Schawanda, Bobby [Ryan and Rashawn’s parents], the relationship I’ve developed with them over time, being around Ryan, it’s special.”

Ryan remembered for heart, fearlessness

The trio of Bost, Holden and Jones spent much of their sophomore year taking turns in the starting lineup, where they played alongside four seniors.

When the fifth annual Bob Bost Classic rolled around, the first Ryan played in, it was Holden’s turn to start. But Holden suggested Ryan start instead.

Ellis switched around the order of the turn-taking sophomores so that Ryan would start, but also made it clear that Ryan wasn’t just given that spot, but earned it, just as Bob would’ve hoped.

“I was just very proud and overwhelmed. My father didn’t see Ryan play [in high school],” Bobby said. “It was just a beautiful emotion.”

Ryan recorded five steals that game, in what now seems like a sign of what was to become, as Bost was routinely assigned to guard the opposing team’s best player.

At 5-foot-8, Ryan was almost always shorter than his matchup. Though he was a good athlete, Jones and Holden were probably better in that department. But Ryan had what couldn’t be measured: heart and fearlessness.

Evanston’s Rashawn Bost (24) drives between two New Trier defenders during a Feb. 2, 2022 game. Credit: . Photos for the Roundtable/Joel Lerner

Ryan went on to play in the commemorative rivalry game twice more before graduating and passing the torch to Rashawn. 

Both siblings could score in a variety of ways, averaging just under 10 points per game in their senior seasons, but didn’t necessarily need the ball in their hands constantly. They were both highly intelligent players and decision-makers, each having a team-best assist-turnover ratio for at least one season.

Add the fact that they both wore number 24, and had some of the same go-to moves – like a tear-drop floater or the way they’d reach behind and around an opposing ball handler to poke the ball loose. It’s safe to say the resemblance was evident.

“If I see a move Rashawn makes, I’ve already seen it [from Ryan]. This was his mirror image, and for people to see Rashawn right now, and you get a glimpse of Ryan’s picture, it’s astounding the resemblance,” Bobby said.

Rashawn ‘knows his brother’s looking down on him’

When Ryan died between Rashawn’s sophomore and junior seasons, Rashawn certainly felt pressure to uphold his brother’s legacy. And he succeeded. Rashawn earned all-conference honors and is now a freshman at Southwestern Michigan College where he’s averaging 10.5 points per game and leads the team in field goal and 3-point percentage.

“His strength is more than mine. It’s hard for me every day. And he’s going through it, he has his ups and down but he doesn’t show it,” Bobby said. “He’s got a real blinder on, and he’s focused. And he knows his brother’s looking down on him.”

The summer before Rashawn headed off to college, he played alongside a few dozen friends of the Bost family and ETHS basketball alumni in an All-Star charity basketball game at Beardsley Gym in Ryan’s honor.

Players and friends gather around Schawanda and Bobby Bost for a final photo at the July 2, 2022 charity game. Credit: Richard Cahan

The event had a picture-perfect ending, with Rashawn making the game-winning basket. That charity game will be played again this summer over the Fourth of July weekend.

The charity matchup was just one of the ways that the Evanston community came together to honor the life of Ryan Bost.

“That was one of the most beautiful things ever,” Bobby said. “We never would have thought that certain things can bring so many people together.” 

Though the third generation of Bost athletes has made its way through ETHS, the family has made an enduring mark.

Hanging on a wall outside the locker room is a framed jersey with “Evanston” and the number 24. Ellis says as long as he is at ETHS, that jersey will stay there, and no player will wear the number that Ryan and Rashawn Bost shared.

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