Bond born in Buffalo ready to jumpstart basketball season in Tempe
TEMPE – Electricity. That’s the word Arizona State men’s basketball coach Bobby Hurley used to describe his junior guard, one who spent the entire season on the bench last year.
Shannon Evans, a Virginia native, was ineligible for the 2015-16 season after following his coach from the University at Buffalo to ASU when Hurley took over the program in 2015. Now, Hurley is ready to flip the switch on his dynamic guard, who redshirted last season.
“He does everything,” Hurley said. “Just the intangibles, the electricity that you’ll see him play with. I think his teammates will feed off his positive energy. Our fans will enjoy that, too.”
Evans hopes to have an impact on the court beginning Nov. 11 when the Sun Devils open the season against Portland State. Hurley said he might have to calm his point guard down for the first few games because he has been ready to play since arriving on campus.
“That guy has got so much passion and energy and it was all bottled up last year,” Hurley said. “He did it on the practice floor. He helped (point guard) Tra (Holder) get ready to play just by how good he was on the practice floor. This kid wants to play so bad.”
Evans has considered his coach family since Hurley came to Evans’ home in Virginia to recruit the 6-foot-1, 160-pound playmaker. It is why he followed Hurley cross-country to a much warmer climate to play.
“He’s my best friend, like my second dad,” Evans said. “Leslie, his wife, that’s my second mom. His children are like my brothers and sisters.”
But Hurley represents more than just family to Evans. He represents the pinnacle of playing the point guard position.
In college, Hurley was the floor leader at Duke under coach Mike Krzyzewski, directing the Blue Devils to back-to-back national championships in 1991 and 1992. Hurley’s success has created a layer of trust with his players, especially from Evans, who aspires to have the same kind of success at point guard.
“We had a connection and it just went from there,” Evans said. “The communication we had through the tough times and the great times. I kind of opened up to him first, and then he opened up as well. It just went from there, and he’s one of the top people in my life now. I trust him. He trusts me. It’s pretty good right now.”
ASU assistant coach Levi Watkins came with Hurley from Buffalo and has watched the bond that has formed between the coach and player.
Watkins said Evans was like a coach on the court playing the point guard position and was a big part of the success the team had. Evans averaged 15.4 points and 4.6 assists as Buffalo qualified for the NCAA Tournament for the first time in school history in 2015.
“He’s a guy who competed every day in practice and also in the games,” Watkins said. “He played with a huge chip on his shoulder because he only had one scholarship offer coming out of high school. He wanted to prove the people wrong for that.”
The relationship between Hurley and Evans flourished in part because Hurley was the only coach who offered a scholarship. Entrusted with that shot, Evans gave Hurley his all.
“Shannon is as gifted as any player in our conference, I think, coming into this year on the perimeter,” Hurley said. “When you see that guy work every day and you see him make plays, whether it’s hitting the deep threes, getting in the lane, finding teammates…
“The guy doesn’t get tired. He can just run all day. We did our team mile and he was 4-minutes, 59-seconds in the mile, which is the top time that I’ve ever been around in my coaching.”
Evans said that during his freshman year, before he had found his stride on the court, Hurley believed in his potential and encouraged him despite his lackluster play.
That confidence was rewarded. As a sophomore, Evans scored 33 points against Cornell and had the first triple-double in Buffalo’s history against Binghamton in the same week.
“My freshman year, when I wasn’t playing too good, he was always there for me giving me confidence and telling me to keep going,” Evans said. “When I had the first triple-double in school history in Buffalo…he was there just as well if I was down, too. The best piece of advice he ever gave me was never be too high and never be too low.”
Evans said in his year off the court, he studied more film with Hurley and developed a deeper understanding of what he’ll be up against in the Pac-12 Conference.
“(Sitting out) hurt,” Evans said. “But, I got through it, and now I can play, and I just want to give my team a chance to win.”
For Evans, it is time to turn on the electricity.