By JOSEPH SANTOLIQUITO (Daily News)
THE DESTINATION always seemed to be the NBA. Ever since Tyreke Evans was a baby, with a regulation-sized ball in his hands, he’d watch games with older brothers Reggie, Doc and Eric. Tyreke would imitate what he saw on TV, and was making free throws as a 4-year-old on a regulation-sized court.
As recently as a year ago, the destination never wavered. When Evans sat before a phalanx of microphones and told a national TV audience that he’d be going to Memphis, it seemed to be a foregone conclusion that the gifted 6-6 shooting guard out of American Christian in Aston would be a one-and-done.
Evans made that definitive yesterday, when he announced that he intends to leave Memphis and enter the NBA draft in June. The school announced on its Web site that he submitted his paperwork to the NBA, but indicated that he would not sign with an agent, which would allow him to change his mind and return to college.
Evans said he knew it was time to leave after Memphis lost to Missouri in the Sweet 16 to end the Tigers’ season.
“Coach [John] Calipari told me I was a great kid and that I’d be a lottery pick,” Evans said. “He told me it was time for me to leave. That’s when I knew I would put my name in.
“I had to sit down with my brothers and we spoke about going. I told them what coach Cal said, and I let my brothers handle the rest. I feel pretty happy, with all the hard work that I put in. My goal was always to make it to the NBA, and it’s something I dreamed about since I was a kid. I always dreamed about being called up during the NBA draft, and seeing guys get emotional. I might not. I have to see when I get up there.”
Evans finished a very strong season at Memphis, leading the Tigers with a 17.1 scoring average, starting in 35 of 37 games. He concluded the season with a career-best 33 points in a 102-91 loss to Missouri in the NCAA Tournament.
Calipari subsequently left for the job at Kentucky, and Memphis assistant Josh Pastner was promoted to the top spot.
Some draft prognosticators have Evans, who adjusted seamlessly to a midseason position change from shooting guard to point guard, going as high as No. 2 overall. He was selected national Freshman of the Year by a number of news outlets.
Still only 19 (he’ll turn 20 on Sept. 19), Evans showed a great combination of scoring instincts and strength to the basket this past season. Under Calipari, Evans also showed an ability to defend and rebound at the major Division I level, averaging 5.4 rebounds a game and leading Memphis with 77 steals.
“I think Tyreke is really good,” said an NBA source who could not speak on the record. “I’ve always compared him to Larry Hughes. They have similar size; maybe Tyreke is a little taller and a little thicker. Both have well-rounded games. I think Tyreke is an NBA starter, and he’s only 19. He has a work ethic and he wants to get better. He’s not a great shooter, and I don’t know if that will ever change.”
But is Evans a point guard in the NBA? Calipari went through three point guards before putting the ball in Evans’ hands. The result: a 27-game winning streak for the 33-4 Tigers, before losing to Missouri.
“I saw Tyreke play twice live this past season, and I can only scout what I saw,” the NBA source said. “Cal did a good job when he finally put the ball in Tyreke’s hands. Cal made him a willing passer. But don’t get the wrong idea; Tyreke’s not a point guard. He’s a wing with a great handle. Tyreke has great size, he can finish, he gets to the line a lot, and can rebound and lead the break. There are a lot of things I like about him. He’ll be a lottery pick and a really good player, with a chance to be an All-Star. I have to admit, I’m a fan of the kid. Anyone 6-6 and that talented, you have to be.
“There’s nothing wrong with being Larry Hughes. He had an opportunity to be a special player; without all the injuries, he could have been an All-Star. I’m rooting for Tyreke to make it. He had a great freshman year. We’ll watch and see where he winds up.”
“Before we made this move, we got the feedback we wanted to hear,” said Reggie Evans. “We’re hearing anywhere from 1 to 15, but that will depend on what teams need. We’re declaring without an agent, and that’s important. If we don’t like where Tyreke is drafted, he could go back to Memphis. We are interviewing agents, but we haven’t signed with anyone yet.
“Right now, my family’s biggest concern is that Tyreke gets drafted by a good organization and be able to play for that team. The bottom line is that he’s happy.”
Said Tyreke: “I always had haters in my life. I like that. It makes me work on my game that much harder. In June, David Stern is going to call my name. My family will be there, and that’s the most important thing. I get a chance to live my dream. It just happened so fast.”… Read Entire Article Here