Jacob Evans went from a lightly recruited high school basketball player to a rookie on the powerhouse Golden State Warriors in just four years. Following three seasons at the University of Cincinnati, Evans was selected by the two-time defending champions with the 28th overall pick in the 2018 NBA Draft.
As a junior, the 6’6”, 210-pound wing led the Bearcats in points per game and assists per game, and tied for the team lead in three-pointers made per game in 2017-18. His Cincinnati squad earned a No. 2 seed in the 2018 NCAA Tournament, but they fell in an upset to No. 7 Nevada in the second round.
“It’s kind of like, surreal. I really can’t put words on it,” Evans told Cincinnati.com of getting drafted by the Warriors, who feature two former MVPs in Stephen Curry and Kevin Durant, as well as Draymond Green, the 2016-17 Defensive Player of the Year. “When I got the call I couldn’t even say anything. I was like, man, for real? They’re like, yeah, for real. I’m like, man, thank you. To have the opportunity to go play for the best team in the NBA, it’s just amazing.”
Now that the 21-year-old has made the leap from college to the pros, the Warriors expect Evans to contribute to a team with aspirations for a third consecutive championship.
Here’s what you need to know.
1. Evans Wasn’t Even a Top-100 Recruit Coming Out of High School
The wing from Baton Rouge, Louisiana, was the nation’s 134th-ranked college prospect from the class of 2015, according to 247Sports’ composite rating system. Compared to most future NBA players, Evans received little attention from major college programs while he was in high school. He was playing for an unheralded AAU team when University of Cincinnati associate head coach Larry Davis first saw him play in a gym in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, in 2014.
“I’m looking around and I’m thinking to myself, there should be a lot of [other coaches] here,” Davis told NBA.com. “And I’m glad there’s not.”
Evans impressed Davis with his shooting, his ability to defend all three perimeter positions, and his frame.
“Our thing is we try to get kids who are under-recruited, have a little chip on their shoulder, and want to compete and get better,” Davis added. Programs like Auburn and South Carolina finally caught on and started recruiting Evans, but, having already built a relationship Davis, the high schooler accepted a scholarship to Cincinnati.
2. Evans Attributes His Work Ethic to His Mother
Evans grew up watching his mother, Theresa Chatman-Evans, work 12-hour shifts as the director of a daycare to support him and his two brothers by herself.
“We never lacked for shoes or clothes or food. We’d see her go to work in the dark and come home at dark,” Evans said of his mother, according to NBA.com. “That’s how hard she worked. She drilled the value of that into us without ever really talking about it. She taught us not to settle.”
That mentality paid off, transforming him from an afterthought of a recruit into a first-round draft pick during his three years in college.
“I kind of saw myself as an underdog,” Evans added. “I didn’t have the hype behind my name. From the day I got on campus, the coaches made sure I worked hard every day, as hard as I could, controlling what I can control. What you put into this game is what you get out. You can never be a perfect basketball player, and you can never be satisfied.”
3. Evans Compares Himself to Jimmy Butler
These days, Jimmy Butler is a superstar with the wattage to demand a trade and draw immediate interest from around the league. But the wing who played for the Chicago Bulls for six years before suiting up for the Minnesota Timberwolves in 2017-18 wasn’t always on track for stardom.
Butler was hardly recruited out of high school before attending Tyler Junior College in Tyler, Texas, where he averaged 18.1 points, 7.7 rebounds, and 3.1 assists per game as a freshman. His production finally drew the attention of major college programs, and he accepted a scholarship offer from Marquette. Following a three-year career there, Butler was the 30th pick in the 2011 NBA Draft. He then played sparingly his rookie year, averaging just 8.5 minutes per game, before blossoming into a two-way maven.
Because of this trajectory, and Butler’s reputation as a hard worker, Evans has cited the four-time All-Star as his NBA comparison on more than one occasion.
“It’s definitely Jimmy Butler because he was a late first-round pick and no one really knew much about him,” Evans told HoopsHype in June 2018. “They thought he was going to be either a role player or a defender. Now a few years down the road, he’s an All-Star and one of the best players for a really good team. He got there off his hard work. No one is going to just give it to you so he went out there and took it. I’ve been working my butt off because I’ve had the goal of being a really good player in the league. When the ball gets on the court, that’s where I’m going to make my mark.”
4. The Warriors Believe Evans Will Be Able to Contribute Right Away
While many rookies need a year or two to break into an NBA rotation, Evans appealed to Golden State because they believe he’ll be able to provide valuable minutes this coming season.
“I don’t think [Warriors head coach] Steve [Kerr] is going to have any problem putting him out there. He seems like a hard worker and will get better,” said Warriors general manager Bob Myers, according to The Mercury News. Myers also described Evans as “solid,” “serious,” and “defensive-minded.”
With four expensive stars in Durant, Curry, Green, and Klay Thompson on the roster, the Warriors are always on the lookout for cheap production, which can often be found late in the draft. In 2017-18, rookie Jordan Bell proved to be a valuable member of Golden State’s rotation. Like Evans, Bell was an upperclassman and a highly regarded defender selected late in his draft. Despite averaging just 14.2 minutes per game last season, the 23-year-old big man was third on the Warriors in blocks per contest during their championship campaign.
As Andre Iguodala approaches his 35th birthday, the Warriors hope Evans can similarly provide valuable depth to their wing rotation this season.
5. Draymond Green Endorsed the Warriors’ Selection of Evans
Green, a three-time All-Star and a 2012 second-round selection, participated in the Warriors’ draft process in 2018, watching the team’s pre-draft workouts and sitting with members of the front office during the draft.
“He can do whatever he wants, I imagine,” Myers told The Mercury News of Green. “He could be in the media. He could be a GM, a coach. He’s just a winner. It’s just a skill. It’s his whole life. He just wins. So I imagine he would be good [as a general manager].”
Green offered his opinions on players, and commended Evans’ defensive intensity — high praise from a former Defensive Player of the Year who has four All-Defensive nods on his resume.
“Draymond said this kid knows how to play,” Myers told reporters after the draft. “That’s a compliment. That’s a pretty high compliment.”
After the selection, the 28-year-old big man spoke on the phone with his new teammate.
“It took me back to my day being drafted,” Green told The Mercury News of his conversation with Evans. “He was so excited on the phone. He said he was so elated just to talk to me. You could just tell he was excited to be a Warrior.”
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