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Just Playing in the Backyard

Granted he was not a highly touted recruit, Ryan Evans return to Arizona for the NCAA Tournament has been met with huge fan fare. Evans is currently a sophomore on the Wisconsin Badgers who are posturing to earn a spot in the Sweet Sixteen Saturday night.

Before Evans became a Badger he was a high school standout for Hamilton HS out in Phoenix Arizona. As a senior he led them to the 5A Class State Semifinals before a controversial technical foul led to the loss. In that senior season Evans averaged 18.4 PPG 7.3 RPG 2 BPG 1.4 SPG and was a versatile weapon for his team. He was seen as a player who could defend and play multiple positions, doing so very effectively.

That senior season was what garnered the attention from schools like Portland State, Pepperdine and Illinois. Keep in mind Evans was not a nationally ranked recruit – he was a very good player – but the offers were not blowing his door down. The offer that manifested the most with Evans was a surprising one; it came from the Wisconsin Badgers.

I asked Evans why he choose Wisconsin over the rest, “It was my first offer so I wanted to stay true to Coach Ryan. I got it my senior year, towards the end of my senior year. It was a real blessing for me to be able to play at the level I am at and now that I am here I want to keep flourishing and become the player I want to be.”

That was surprising because most kids will milk the recruiting process and listen to everyone that is willing to praise them. Not Evans, he saw the offer as a sign of loyalty and respect so he showed them the same by signing.

For the past two seasons Evans has had the opportunity to play at a major university and go to the NCAA Tournament. Last season it ended in the second round (against Cornell) where he played a very good game. This year he has a secret weapon that he didn’t have with him in Florida, the region he played in. He has the fans on his side, he spoke about that with me, “Yesterday I had probably 60 people were here supporting me. It has been a great turnout and definitely helping my focus for the game.”

If you cannot be in Tucson to support Evans, tune in on TV and root hard for #5 in the white and red. He appreciates it and feels right at home here in his backyard, “It feels great. I couldn’t ask for anything more than what God has blessed me with to be, and at home. Hopefully I can transfer that to the court for the fans backing me.”

How does it feel to play in your own backyard in the NCAA Tournament as a sophomore?

It feels great. I couldn’t ask for anything more than what God has blessed me with to be, and at home. Hopefully I can transfer that to the court for the fans backing me.

Speaking of the fans, how has the turnout been?

Yesterday I had probably 60 people were here supporting me. It has been a great turnout and definitely helping my focus for the game.

What do you think of your performance verse Belmont (4 points 3 rebounds)?

I had an impact, I wish it was more. You know, hopefully this next game I could contribute more.

In that kind of game – grinding and defensive – what kind of a role do you play? Kansas State will be very similar.

Yeah, Kansas State is a more athletic team. I am going to have to focus more on defense a little bit more and controlling the ball a little bit more. Someone like me could bring the energy, also Mike (Bruesewitz) and the other role players that we have.

What has Coach Ryan told you of your role verse Kansas State?

He doesn’t really tell us what our role is going to be game-to-game. I know that as a player I am going to have to focus on rebounding and defense and let that translate to the offensive end.

Any match-up you are looking forward to?

Jacob Pullen. We’ve all heard of him and I am not going to sit here and act like the kid is not good because he is good. It is going to be good to get out here and go head-to-head with him.

Did you watch any of Kansas State first round game?

I watched probably 10 minutes of yesterday’s game so I couldn’t tell you a lot about him. I haven’t watched him that much, but you see his name a lot so it is going to be fun to get out there with him.

How do you see you game expanding over your career at Wisconsin?

I feel I dictate that. The work that I put in is going to dictate that and I am looking forward to blooming in this program. I think it will expand quite a bit.

What led you to Wisconsin?

It was my first offer so I wanted to stay true to Coach Ryan. I got it my senior year, towards the end of my senior year. It was a real blessing for me to be able to play at the level I am at and now that I am here I want to keep flourishing and become the player I want to be.

Any pull with the Arizona recruits coming out to Wisconsin? Anyone you have an eye on?

Somewhat, there are all kinds of kids out here; my little brother is coming up still. There are quite a few kids I would like to see get offers.