Evans makes a mark on Buffalo

Published 11:25 pm Saturday, December 21, 2013

It has some taken hard work and faith in his coaches, but former Nansemond River High School basketball standout Shannon Evans is in a great college situation. He is playing for a legendary player-turned-coach at a Division I school, University at Buffalo — The State University of New York, and Evans has begun to shine as a freshman.

University at Buffalo freshman Shannon Evans is already logging starter-level minutes on an upperclassman-laden roster at the NCAA Division I level.

University at Buffalo freshman Shannon Evans is already logging starter-level minutes on an upperclassman-laden roster at the NCAA Division I level.

On a roster with eight upperclassmen out of 12 players, he is playing significant minutes and is already averaging 7.1 points per game.

Entering Saturday’s contest against Manhattan College, the Bulls were 4-3 this season, and Evans hit double figures in their two most recent wins.

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“I got comfortable early,” he said referring to a 17-point performance in a 78-73 victory over St. Bonaventure University and a 13-point game in a 65-55 win over Delaware State University.

“I’ve got to still improve a lot, but so far, so good,” he said.

Nansemond River head coach Ed Young says Evans has the size of a point guard and the skill of a shooting guard. He was not really surprised to see Evans attract the attention of a D1 college.

“I thought each year in our program he improved,” Young said, “(His) work ethic at first was questionable, but that’s what he really worked on to the point where he got in the gym by himself.”

Evans improved his shot range to include three-pointers, but worked to develop other skills aside from just shooting. In his senior year, he led the 2011-12 Warriors to a 21-5 record and their first Southeastern District tournament title since 2007, averaging 19 points, six rebounds and five assists per game.

After that, Evans joined Hargrave Military Academy’s post-graduate program to give college recruiters more opportunity to see him and to improve his SAT score.

“It helped him both on the court and off the court,” Young said.

Evans averaged 17.2 points per game and led the team to an Elite Eight appearance in a prep school national tournament.

He committed to Buffalo after being recruited by Reggie Witherspoon, but the Bulls’ head coach was abruptly fired at the end of the 2012-13 season after 14 years and a 198-228 record.

Evans considered retracting his commitment, figuring he would not play much under a new coach who had not recruited him. However, when Young saw who the new coach was, he told Evans about him and encouraged his former player to stick with Buffalo.

Buffalo’s new coach is Bobby Hurley, one of college basketball’s most iconic figures after his play as a point guard with the Duke University Blue Devils. He led them to three Final Four appearances and back-to-back national championships in 1991 and 1992.

He still holds the National Collegiate Athletic Association record for career assists with 1,076, and he went on to play five seasons in the National Basketball Association with the Sacramento Kings and the Vancouver Grizzlies.

Young knew Hurley was a self-made player, who played in high school under his father, Bob Hurley Sr., a very successful coach who was known for being tough and not showing favoritism.

Hurley Jr. logged successful assistant and associate coaching stints before being selected as Buffalo’s coach.

Evans listened to Young’s advice.

“He stayed, and he went up this summer, and I think that’s what helped him, because he spent a lot of time with Coach Hurley,” Young said.

The new coach was able to get a good idea of what Evans offers.

“I’m not surprised how productive he’s been lately for us,” Hurley said. “Really from day one, he’s been one of our hardest-working players.”

Young told Evans to expect this to be more of a learning year, as opposed to a playing year, but he has been pleasantly surprised by the amount of Evans’ court time. “If he’s playing minutes, he’s earned them,” Young said.

“He’s playing starter minutes right now, so he’s already entrenched himself in the rotation on our team,” Hurley said, referring to Evans’ 24.3-minute average per game. “He provides a spark for us at both ends of the floor, and I count on him being a major contributor this year on a good team.”

Evans gives credit to Young for helping him have that spark. When his shots aren’t falling, he still recalls that Young advised him to “always think the next shot’s going to go in.” And regarding the other end of the floor, he simply said, “I like playing defense, and I got that from Coach Young.”

“He’s got a very bright future in our program,” Hurley said.