Kent State is the last chance for Tyree Evans

Doug Gulasy

The Kent State men’s basketball team will hold its first official practice Friday at the M.A.C. Center, as the team prepares for its 2008-2009 season. The Flashes will strive for their 11th straight season with 20-plus wins with several new faces.

One of those new faces is junior guard Tyree Evans, who was added to the roster last week after walking on to the team earlier this fall.

“I am excited about the opportunity to play for Kent State, and I am taking it very seriously,” Evans said in an athletic department statement. “Right now, I am focused on my classes and preparing for the upcoming season. I hope to move forward and begin the next chapter in my life.”

Evans averaged 21.1 points per game last season at Motlow State Community College in Lynchburg, Tenn., making 44 percent of his three-point attempts.

Evans originally committed to Cincinnati under coach Bob Huggins in 2004 but for academic reasons, he chose to attend Winchendon School, a prep school in Massachusetts, after graduating high school. He remained committed to Cincinnati at that time.

In June 2005, while still at Winchendon, Evans was arrested and charged with statutory rape along with two teammates. He pleaded down to a misdemeanor assault and battery charge and was sentenced to two years of probation in July 2006. He sat out the 2005-2006 basketball season while dealing with the legal issues. During this time, Cincinnati released him from his scholarship.

Evans was charged with felony possession of marijuana with intent to distribute in August 2005. He pleaded down to a misdemeanor charge of possession and spent two weeks in a Richmond, Va., jail in the summer of 2007.

Along with these two charges, Evans was also charged with misdemeanors of marijuana possession in 2005 and trespassing in 2006.

After being denied the chance to play for Huggins at Kansas State in July 2006, Evans played for Butler Community College in El Dorado, Kan., in 2006-2007. He was averaging 17.6 points per game before getting dismissed from the team.

Evans found his way to Motlow last season, where he played for then-head coach and current Kent State assistant Bobby Steinburg, and played with current Kent State forward Frank Henry-Ala. He committed to Maryland following last season, but asked for his release in May.

Despite Evans’ past, the Kent State athletic department is confident that he will succeed at Kent State.

“The reality is, he made the decision to turn things around for himself before Kent State,” men’s basketball coach Geno Ford said. “It’s not like he got here and he’s turned it around – he’s had success in Kansas, he’s had success in Tennessee, and now he’s here. I just think he felt comfortable because he knew people here, and so it was worth the sacrifice of him coming to Kent.”

Ford said it isn’t unusual for a player to come to Kent State as a walk-on and succeed, pointing to former all-Mid-American Conference players John Edwards and Eric Haut as examples. He added Evans will have the opportunity to earn a scholarship if he performs well this season.

“It’s always easier for guys who are in the program to get a scholarship than it is for us to add a guy from the outside,” Ford said. “Any high school kid, you don’t know how they’ll be with the system. But when you have players who have already been in your system for a year, it’s much easier to see what they can give you and what he can be in terms of productivity.”

While Evans was the third-leading scorer in Virginia high school basketball history behind NBA Hall of Famer Moses Malone and future Hall of Famer Allen Iverson, he has yet to play basketball on the Division I level.

Kent State Director of Athletics Laing Kennedy said Evans has recognized how big of an opportunity he has to prove himself, both on and off the court.

“I believe that he deserves an opportunity, and I think in his mind, he’s looking on this (as) this may be his last opportunity,” Kennedy said.

Kennedy said Evans has done all the right things since coming to Kent State, but added that he must continue to do so.

“He’s a very responsible person, very diligent – I’m impressed with that,” Kennedy said. “But at the same time, in our code of expected behavior, he can’t make a mistake here.”

Overall, Ford said he thinks Evans has made the right impression in his two months on campus and believes in giving him the opportunity to play for the team.

“You could walk the halls of the M.A.C. Center and pick people at random – I’m talking about employees – and ask them how he is,” Ford said. “He’s a good kid. He’s been fine. There is zero issue with him being here, other than we’re glad he’s here.”

Contact assistant sports editor Douglas Gulasy at [email protected].