The freshman from Dallas, Texas just recently joined his future Cowboys teammates in Stillwater after spending several weeks trying out for and then participating for USA Basketball in the FIBA U19 World Championships in Greece.
The 6-foot, 185-pound Evans became just the third OSU player to win a FIBA U19 World Championship, joining Marcus Smart (2013) and Matt Clark (1979). Evans averaged 2.7 assists and 1.0 steals per game, and the U.S. team was plus-68 points with Evans on the floor during the event’s seven games, and his 19 assists were second on the team.
Evans joined players like Justin Bibbs (Virginia Tech), Jalen Brunson (Villanova), Chinanu Onauku (Louisville), L.J. Peak (Georgetown), Caleb Swanigan (Purdue), Allonzo Trier (Arizona), Thomas Welsh (UCLA) in helping the United States to the gold medal. The team was coached by Arizona head coach Sean Miller.
Here’s our conversation with Evans:
Congratulations on being a part of the USA Basketball team winning the FIBA U19 World championships.
Evans: It was a great experience going over there with some of the top players in the country in 2016, in 2015 and 2014. It was good to be with them and the coaches. It was a good experience.
What did you learn that you can bring with you as a college freshman?
Evans: Just play hard every possession of the game, and don’t take no plays off.
What was the highlight of that experience?
Evans: The highlight was just being on the team. It was just a great thing for me to make it.
You were one of 19 invited and they then selected 12 to represent the United States. Did you go with the expectation of being one of the 12 chosen for the team or did you go with the expectation that just being invited is a privilege and if I make the team it’s a bonus?
Evans: I went with the attitude that I was just thankful to be there, but then I just played as hard as I could so they could not say that I didn’t go hard. So, I just went hard hoping that I could make the team.
Was there a moment during the tryouts when you realized that you belonged and should be a part of the team?
Evans: I went in with the attitude that I could play and belonged there.
Describe what it was like to stand on the medal stand and hear the national anthem played? No many people get to experience that.
Evans: It was … words can’t even explain what it was like. Playing for your country and then at the end getting to stand up on the podium and hear your country’s song playing … it was a great thing.
Let’s talk about Oklahoma State. You really could have gone almost anywhere you wanted after getting recruited by Illinois, USC, South Carolina, Clemson, Cincinnati, Texas. Why was Oklahoma State the place for you?
Evans: Just the coaches, they’ve got a great coaching staff here, and my teammates here. We just have a great bond. From the time I came to visit until now, we just have a great bond. It’s like a big family.
The decision pretty much came down to Oklahoma State and Illinois, correct?
Evans: OSU, Illinois, USC and Texas.
The coaches are working to get you to drop a few pounds, right?
Evans; I’m slimming up after being in the weight room. I got here at 195, (and the coaches want me) down to about 180 or 175. Right now I’m at 183.
They want you to be at your quickest and fastest so that you can push the ball up the court, correct?
Evans: It’s going to be a very fast-paced game. That’s right up my alley. Let’s get up and down the floor.
This team is losing some pretty important parts from last year in Le’Bryan Nash, Michael Cobbins and Anthony Hickey. Where do you see you fitting in with this team as a freshman?
Evans: I really fit in by getting the shooters on my team the ball, playing a bigger role scoring-wise, and making sure everything comes together both offensively and defensively.
How easy is it for a freshman to come in and do that?
Evans: Right now it’s kinda hard for a freshman to come in and you know play that big of a role, but I feel like I’m ready for it. I’m ready for it.
What makes you think you’re ready to become the starting point guard and run this team?
Evans: Just all the long workouts I’ve been through.
What has the coaching staff said to you about what they are needing and expecting out of you this season??
Evans: During the workouts they push me a little harder than most people. I think I’m going to be playing a lot of minutes so they’ve been pushing me to get in the best shape I can be so I can be ready for the games.
What do you think you need to improve on to have an impact in the Big 12 as a freshman?
Evans: I think I just need to start talking more, telling my teammates where to go and where to be on the floor. Just let my presence known.
From what I’ve heard people say about you, being vocal and being a leader on the court doesn’t seem to be something that you’ve had trouble with in the past.
Evans: I am used to be a leader on the court. I just need to do it a little bit more.
Some of the scouting reports indicate that one area you may need to improve to play in the Big 12 is your outside shooting. Is that are area you believe you can improve? Is that a fair assessment?
Evans: Yes, it is. I don’t think it’s as bad as what some people say. I can shoot (the ball), it’s just I didn’t have to. In high school I was able to get to the basket, so I didn’t have to shoot from outside. But I can shoot the ball if I have to. I’ve been in the gym working on it, staying with Phil (Forte), working on my shot.
You mentioned Phil. What’s the benefit of working out with someone who is as dedicated as he is?
Evans: He’s great. Somebody that can shoot that well, and all the stuff he goes through. I’m just learning from him. It’s just making myself better also.
What have you learned from him so far, other than to shoot about 5,000 shots a day?
Evans (laughing); Just work hard, be a hard worker. Don’t take any days off. Whenever everybody else is asleep, be getting better in the gym.
Oklahoma State has only finished higher than sixth in the Big 12 once in the past five years (this past year the Cowboys tied for sixth with an 8-10 conference record). After losing LB, Cobbins and Hickey, it’s unlikely OSU will be any higher than fifth or sixth in the preseason polls. Does that motivate you?
Evans: It actually does motivate me. For most of my life I’ve been the underdog. So coming to a school that is kinda an underdog school, they kinda look over us. So I’m looking forward to coming in, playing hard and beating the big teams.
The last few years this team has pulled off a few upsets, defeating Kansas several times both inside Gallagher-Iba Arena and Allen Fieldhouse How do you as a freshman come in and impact this program so that the team becomes a Big 12 contender?
Evans: Just being able to beat the big-name teams. We’ve got to win the games we’re supposed to win in the Big 12 and (non-conference).
I’m sure you’ve witnessed some of those upsets in person or by watching on television the last few years. What do those wins tell you about this program?
Evans: It’s a great program. I know that they have the players capable of upsetting the big-name teams.