Risky business

Brock Harrington

Flashes play with fire, but it may just work

He’s 23 years old. He’s 6-foot-3 and the third-leading scorer in Virginia high school basketball history. He’s already been to two different junior colleges in his young career. He was once considered one of the best high school guards in the country by recruiting sites such as Rivals.com and Scout.com. He’s been in trouble, serious trouble, the type of trouble that resulted in jail time.

He averaged more than 20 points per game last season.

He is Kent State men’s basketball walk-on, Tyree Evans.

Every basketball program has to take risks in order to stay at the top, and this is Kent State’s big one as the memories of the 2002 Elite Eight run begin to fade away and yet another coaching staff takes over.

Oklahoma State and Eddie Sutton constantly took risks when they brought on Doug Gottlieb after a credit card scandal and JamesOn Curry after he was caught selling pot to an undercover cop. It was one reason why Oklahoma State was so successful in Sutton’s era – because the Cowboys gave players multiple chances.

The difference is that Gottlieb and Curry didn’t walk on to those teams. Evans is at the point where no team will even think of offering him a scholarship, especially after what happened at Maryland.

This past April, Evans signed to play for national championship-winning coach Gary Williams, who is just trying to take the Terps back to the NCAA Tournament, let alone another Final Four. When Maryland announced its recruiting class, the campus erupted with controversy, just as it has among the alumni circles here at Kent State.

When Maryland learned of the four charges and the two weeks in jail the basketball player had gone through, Evans asked for his release and Maryland gave it to him.

Whether Evans was asked to leave or he made the decision himself is something that we in the media and fans will probably never know. What we do know is that Maryland’s Office of Student Conduct reviewed his criminal background and athletic director Debbie Yow said in a statement she didn’t even know Williams was recruiting Evans.

For whatever reason, Evans decided to leave Maryland about a month after signing his letter of intent. This wasn’t the first time Evans almost made it into Division I basketball, as he was a Bob Huggins recruit for Cincinnati in 2004.

Kent State, which hired Bobby Steinburg, Evans’ head coach last season at Motlow, was a natural landing spot for Evans.

The Kent State athletic department has done a terrific job keeping Evans’ story under wraps. If it weren’t for recruiting sites such as Kentsportsreport.com, I and many other journalists wouldn’t even know Evans’ story as it unfolded this summer. Evans enrolled at Kent State and officially wasn’t a member until walk-on tryouts were finished. Not surprisingly, he made the team.

The fan base seems to be mixed. I talked to some people, and they’re appalled new Kent State coach Geno Ford would bring in a player with a long rap sheet in his first season. They ask if this is something he will continue to do.

I have also heard positives. People have said the addition of Evans will lead to another 20-win season and another Mid-American Conference championship. The thought of Tyree Evans, senior guard Al Fisher and senior forward Chris Singletary playing together would be incredible.

I think Tyree Evans is a high-risk move, but then again not. I think he’s a high-reward player, but I’m not sure. Evans could be a very bad decision, but then again his leash is so short that Ford didn’t even give him a scholarship.

So, hypothetically, if Evans decides to skip 7 Ideas at 8:15 in the morning, he could be canned quicker then the CEO of Lehman Brothers.

Hypothetically, Evans could be a redemption story as he plays for a scholarship.

Evans could be the missing link for a team that lost possibly its two most important players from 2007, Haminn Quaintance and Mike Scott, making Evans a high-reward player. Considering the Flashes couldn’t handle UNLV’s full-court press last season, having a another sure-handed guard would be anything but bad.

Then again, Evans could get lost in the shuffle, considering he will be, or should be, the third guard in the rotation, behind Fisher and senior Jordan Mincy. I’m not sure what the starting lineup will be, and considering Singletary is still suspended, Ford probably doesn’t know either.

So my final ruling on Tyree Evans?

Well, he’s not Antonio Gates, who also came to Kent State with a less-than-flattering background, but not as bad as Evans’. But in the same light, he’s not Lawrence Phillips or Rae Carruth – he’s just a college kid who’s been in trouble.

Will the proverbial microscope be placed on him? Yes, probably more than any Kent State walk-on athlete ever.

Are people going to ask, “Why did other athletes from less successful Kent State teams get kicked off because of just possessing pot while the basketball team brings in a player who has been caught selling the drug?”

They should, but they have to remember: Every basketball team has to take risks to stay on top.

Contact sports editor Brock Harrington at [email protected].