September 27, 2014 – Victoria, BC – ISN’s Lachlan Ross follows UVic basketball player Terrell Evans’ pursuit to go pro.
Written and photographed by Lachlan Ross (ISN)
Terrell Evans sports a dark grey t-shirt to his men’s league game at home in Las Vegas, a royal blue V stamped on the chest. But the V doesn’t symbolize Sin City – it represents his accomplishments north of the border at the University of Victoria.
It’s been a long summer for the school’s Male Athlete of the Year as he searches for a debut basketball contract abroad. He grinds through solo workouts by day to showcase his skills in Friday and Sunday night league games at the Tarkanian basketball centre. Though with every week that goes by, frustration to continue his career grows.
As a six-foot-four small forward, who played out of position at power forward for UVic, those who haven’t seen him play in person could consider him undersized.
“If you don’t know him and you don’t understand how he might translate to the professional level, you might have concerns,” says UVic Vikes coach Craig Beaucamp. “But Terrell’s proven himself and just finds ways to be successful.”
Evans carried UVic to a final four finish this year at the Canadian Interuniversity Sport National Championships – UVic’s best season since a silver medal in 2006 – and was named a First Team All-Canadian.
Doubt about Evans size and natural position aren’t a new thing. American colleges had concerns about him after two years at Yakima College – a junior college in Central Washington – despite being an All-Tournament First Team selection at the conference championships.
Questions about his abilities are, in part, what created Evans excessive drive to compete. He works away at his weaknesses, unable to settle for flaws in his game and last year’s statistics show it. Evans finished the 2013-14 season dominating the Canada West division with 18-points, seven rebounds and one-point-six steals per game over 22 contests. He also managed to finish top 10 in shooting at 56-percent from the field and 47-perecent from long distance.
Coach Beaucamp likes to joke with Evans about his second year at Yakima where he attempted just nine three-pointers, making none. For a guy who teammates sagged off in practice his first two Vikes seasons, 35 converted threes and second in the conference on percentage this year made a statement.
“Terrell is an outstanding competitor,” says Canadian Basketball Hall of Famer, Ken Shields. “He can score inside and he can score on the perimeter. He’s quick, he’s aggressive, and he’s a team oriented guy – a good solid citizen.” Shields, who coached in North America, Europe, Asia, and Australia, did individual workouts with Evans this past year in Victoria. “He is a very good rebounder for his size,” Shields adds.
Having the opportunity to play the stretch four position at UVic – a power forward on the perimeter – allowed Evans to experience a style of basketball European countries have adopted for years. The international game has always appealed to Evans, with one of the reasons he chose Canada being a want to become familiar with FIBA rules – such as a 24-second shot clock instead of American college’s 35.
Many scouts have now mistakenly labeled Evans Canadian not American because he played at UVic. He says despite the tag of being “American” holding more weight with some in the world of basketball imports, “I’m representing both countries.”
“He has a big heart and a big smile,” says Beaucamp. “All the time he brings such positive energy and he seems to fit in wherever he ends up… I think he worked hard to be a great player, but he also worked hard to be a good ambassador for our school and our program.”
Evans could regularly be seen surrounded by kids at coaching camps, smiling for photos or accepting challenges to play one-on-one. In grocery stores he laughed with parents and fans. On campus he stopped to hug students and talk about their weekend. In a lifestyle that leaves many student-athletes short of sleep, rushing from class to practice, Evans made time for whoever needed it.
It was these interactions with the people around basketball on Vancouver Island that made his time in Canada so memorable. “It brightened me up,” he says about Victoria and its surroundings. “It’s a small island, so you get to know everybody. It’s like a family there.”
This summer Evans hired an agent to get his highlight tapes and statistics seen in Europe and South America. He also toured Japan with UVic as an opportunity to be seen by local clubs. In the six long months since Nationals, Evans has had multiple chances for coaches and team owners abroad to see him. Yet nearing the end of September – his personal deadline for finding a contract – still nothing has been offered.
Coach Shields says the international basketball market is currently in bad shape and with financial difficulties in Europe several teams have collapsed. “It’s probably never been any harder than it is right now to find a job in basketball.”
Evans’ emotion was seen on the court in games. Known to smile, shout, or point towards UVic’s crowd of up to 2,000 fans, he found ways to pull energy from those around him, while bringing them along for the ride. With the ability to take matters into his own hands on the court, darting through defenders and tormenting oversized forwards with his speed, for now Evans basketball career is out of his control.
“I’ve been crying lately because I want it so bad,” says Evans. “There’s just a degree of uncertainty, but you can’t be scared of it… Whatever a team tells me to do, whatever role they want me to be, I can step up and be that.”
Coach Beaucamp gambled on the kid from Las Vegas when schools south of the border didn’t like the odds. With Evans named an All-Canadian, British Columbia Basketball’s Outstanding University Player of the Year, and UVic’s Male Athlete of the Year, Beaucamp has a simple message for any coaches abroad about number eight who took them to the final four.
“He just needs somebody to take a chance and believe in him.”
Lachlan Ross is a graduate of the University of Victoria’s writing program and intern with Independent Sports News. More of his work can be found at lachlanross.org.
Follow Lachlan @LachlanRoss89