Many of us grow up yearning for the days of being an independent individual who is able to come and go as they please. For many, their vision of the future includes traveling to exotic destinations around the globe, seeing the sights, immersing themselves in other cultures and always finding their way back to a welcoming home at the end of their journey.
Chris Evans finished his NCAA career at Kent State University in 2013 and after not hearing his name on NBA draft night, decided to take his talents across the pond. Evans is a 6-foot-7 forward who improved each year in the collegiate ranks, so finding a gig overseas wasn’t difficult. His rookie season was spent in Greece, then it was on to Italy and last year he played in Israel’s top division averaging 17.1 points and 4.7 rebounds while making shots at a 48.3 percent clip.
Now, at 25-years-old with some seasoning under his belt, Evans is stateside playing in the NBA D-League for the Canton Charge. The NBA’s minor league is enjoying the growth stage of their business model as new teams are added each year. The league has 22 teams and more are on the way. This, of course, means there is more competition for NBA call ups as the league has also seen an increase in their talent pool; especially in players with past NBA experience.
The Step Back: Since going undrafted in 2013 you have played three seasons of international basketball. How have those experiences helped improve your game overall?
Chris Evans: Playing overseas taught me how to adjust to different styles. The play is different over there and if you aren’t versatile then it’s hard to make an impact. I learned a lot and grew both on and off the court.
TSB: Where did you enjoy playing most, and why?
Evans: I think I would say Israel, because the style of play is very Americanized. It’s an uptempo game and it really suited my style as a player.
TSB: At 25, you’re on an upward trajectory in terms of production. Do you feel like you have improved each year since turning pro?
Evans: That’s my only goal. I want to get better each year. Every offseason I get with my trainer and we break down my game, find the holes and add something new. I need to get better every day and improve my play every year.
TSB: After three years overseas, why make the move to the D-League right now?
Evans: I just felt like I was ready. As a rookie I heard stories about the financial situation in this league so I went overseas first to help my finances and then to improve as a player. Now, the timing was right. I did a lot of research and really liked what I saw in Canton so I decided to make the move. Timing is everything.
The move has paid off so far as Evans is currently eighth in the D-League in scoring averaging 22.3 points a night. He’s also grabbing almost six rebounds a night, dishing out almost three assists and is 14th in the league at 1.9 steals per contest. Unfortunately, the deadly scoring combo of he and Quinn Cook (22.5 points per game) has not yet translated into wins for the Charge. The team went into Saturday night’s game against the Long Island Nets with a 2-6 record; surely not where they are accustomed to fitting in.
Since moving to Canton in 2011, this franchise has never missed the playoffs and has never won less than 27 games (50-game season), so first-year head coach Nate Reinking is doing all he can to turn the tides. He told The Step Back recently, “No excuses, but the first four games we really had no bigs. We had to play really, really small and that’s an adjustment. Chris (Evans) has played both the 4 and 5 positions and to his credit, he never made a single complaint”.
As to whether Reinking is surprised by Evans’ breakout start to the season as a tryout player, he said, “No. I’m not surprised at all. We watched a lot of film before bringing him in. He played at a high level last year in Israel. He’s a versatile athlete, who can do a lot of things for us”.
TSB: In your first three years as a pro you hit 54 3-pointers. Right now you’re on pace for 120+ 3s for Canton. Is that an aspect of your game you’ve focused on coming into this season?
Evans: That was my biggest focus this summer. I just need to shoot the ball with confidence and be consistent. I know I can hit that shot, so confidence is a big thing for me right now.
TSB: You and Quinn Cook are both top-10 in scoring right now. How helpful has it been for you to play with another big time player like Q?
Evans: He’s made my transition very easy, man. He’s a great player and an even better person. He’s got such a high basketball IQ; he knows the plays from every single position inside and out. We hang out a lot off the court too and (laughs) he makes sure I eat healthy.
TSB: What are some personal goals for you this season?
Evans: Just to get better as a player. Some guys focus on a call up and that’s not me. I just want to get better every single day. I have friends asking me about prospect lists and stuff and I tell them I don’t wanna hear about that, I’m just focused man. I just need to work hard, improve and the rest will take care of itself.
TSB: If you do get an NBA opportunity, what do you bring to the table as a player right now?
Evans: Toughness, consistency, versatility and professionalism. Not that the younger guys aren’t professional but I’ve been a pro and have experience, so I know what it takes to help your team no matter what your role is. I’m a little older now and I know I can adjust to whatever situation I get.
Through the first eight games of the season, Evans has been efficient making 46.3 percent (17.0 FGA/G) of his shots, while also knocking down 38.8 percent (6.1 3PA/G) of his outside shots. His strength is attacking the paint, but adding a consistent 3-point shot is crucial for his NBA prospects. He’s clearly worked on his mechanics as they are greatly improved and he’s up and down in a fluid motion off the catch.
Coach Reinking told TSB what he thinks Evans should be focusing on, “He already shoots the ball well, but if he can become a knock-down 3-point shooter it will open his driving lanes even more. The other thing is he has to work on becoming a lock-down defender. The league always needs guys who can hit 3s and play defense”.
Evans is the only tryout player in the top-50 in terms of scoring right now. He’s blossomed since his days at Kent State where he was mainly known for his athleticism and wild dunks. Now, he’s a more refined, well-oiled machine of a player and his future opportunities are going to improve every single day; just like his mindset.