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He's game for it

Published: Thursday, May 9, 2013 8:00 p.m. CDT • Updated: Friday, May 10, 2013 9:41 a.m. CDT
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(Photo provided)
Seneca graduate Seth Evans finished off his college basketball career this winter and graduated from Florida Southern College.

Seth Evans is used to the travel and demands of major college basketball, but even he admits the past several weeks have been particularly hectic for him.

On March 28, Evans played his final game for Florida Southern College as it was eliminated from the NCAA Division II Tournament with a 96-82 Elite Eight loss to Western Washington.

On April 27 — the same day that the 2006 Seneca High School team for which he played was inducted into the Illinois Basketball Coaches Association Hall of Fame — Evans graduated from FSC with a degree in business administration.

Over that same timeframe, Evans has watched as his former coach has generated national headlines for alleged abuse of players. He has also prepared for the career as a professional basketball player that he is attempting to launch.

Leaving Green Bay

After his 2009 graduation from SHS, Evans went to the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay, which gave him the chance to play Division I basketball. He played in all 35 games as a freshman for the Phoenix, starting three, with averages of 5.0 points, 1.2 rebounds and 1.2 assists per game. In one game against Rochester, Evans scored 19 points.

By the 2010-11 season, the coach that brought Evans to UWGB, Tod Kowalczyk, had left for the University of Toledo. Under Kowalczyk's replacement, Brian Wardle, Evans played in 31 games as a sophomore but started none. His scoring dipped to 3.6 points per game.

"I had a rough year," Evans said.

Evans decided to transfer. He considered several schools, including Florida Gulf Coast University, but ultimately settled on FSC. Playing at the Division II level meant Evans would not have to sit out a season.

"It wasn't that I was worried about my playing tme my junior and senior year. I knew I would have started and my playing time would have been fine," Evans said. "It was more toward my family. My dad (Doug) had moved down here, so it made no sense to have to have him sacrifice being at my games."

Wardle has come under fire recently for alleged abuse of players. The mother of a former UWGB walk-on player filed a complaint against him, spurring an independent investigation headed by a local attorney. The announcement of the investigation led the mother of a second player to file a complaint.

"He's not an easy coach to play for," Evans said of Wardle. Though he describes Wardle as a "tough, hard coach," Evans says Wardle is not the reason he transferred.

With the Mocs

Evans made an immediate impact at FSC. He played in 30 games as a junior in 2011-12 for the Moccasins, starting 19. His average of 3.50 made three-pointers per game, along with a shooting percentage of 42.7, led the nation, and his average of 18.2 points per game was highest in the Sunshine State Conference.

In 2012-13, Evans started all 33 games, scoring a team-high 16.6 points per game. His three-point shooting fell off slightly, as he made 3.33 per game and made 42.0 percent of his attempts. Evans made 89.1 percent of his free-throw attempts in both seasons.

"There was just a lot of great memories, to be able to watch the end of his college career," Doug Evans said. "As a dad, it was special to watch as his game continued to evolve."

The 2011-12 season ended for the Moccasins in the first round of the NCAA Tournament with an 85-74 loss to Christian Brothers. Evans had 27 points in the game.

FSC's tournament run was much lengthier this time around. It defeated North Alabama 94-80 in its South Region opener and Saint Leo 84-65 in the semifinals. In the regional championship, Evans scored a career-high 31 points to pace the Moccasins in a 90-88 victory over Alabama-Hunstville.

"We kind of started out slow offensively," Evans said. "The reason why I had a lot of points was that I had to score. We weren't shooting particularly well, so I decided to take more shots than normal, so that's the only reason why it ended up being my career high. The rest of my teammates started to come around as the game went on.

"That was on of the best moments of my career, along with the high school state championship. I go back and forth on which one is No. 1."

Evans was held to a 2-for-12 shooting performance by Western Washington while playing all 40 minutes of his final college game at Louisville's Freedom Hall. The Moccasins finished 27-6,

"One of the reasons we had been so successful is because of Seth," FSC coach Linc Darner said. "And it's not only his scoring. He was an unbelievable scorer from the perimeter. I believe he got over 1,000 points in two seasons. He is first and third in three-pointers made in a season. He is one of our top five in three-pointers made. But he gave us a lot more. He was a good leader. He was a very good defensive player. He did a lot of the little things."

Going forward

Evans does not waver about what he plans to do for a living.

"There is absolutely no doubt in my mind, from what I've seen I think I can make a living playing basketball," he said.

Evans says he has been "in communcation on a lot of different things" involving potential professional oppontunties. Right now, he says, "it's a waiting process" as both the NBA and most major European leagues focus on their playoffs.

Right now, Evans is spending an average of five to six hours per day on basketball — weight-lifting, running and doing shooting and ballhandling drills.

"In high school, I mean I thought I worked hard then," Evans said. "Then I hit college and I realized what work really was. Now, as I'm looking to take another step and play professionally, I realized I have to take another step in my work ethic."

According to two of his former coaches, Evans was always willing to put in the work competitive basketball requires, and then some.

"As a coach for many years, you see it in certain players where you don't have to tell them to go do a drill. They're always trying to do things to get better, Doug Evans, who coached Seth for four years at SHS, said. "Seth was always doing ballhandling drills and shooting and always wanting more. He wanted to master every aspect of the game and would ask for me and do it on his own. He's got that self-drive, and you've got a special player when they're always pushing themselves like that."

"He is a joy to coach. He's a workaholic in the gym," Darner said. "Those are the types of kids you want to coach. You don't want to have to beg kids to work, and you sure didn't have to do that with Seth. He rubbed off on the other guys. He'd be in the gym constantly, and when they saw what he was doing, they started doing it themselves. And that's part of him being a leader. He was not so much a vocal leader, but one through his work ethic."

There is a back-up plan for Evans should a professional basketball career not come to fruition.

"If it doesn't work out or something goes wrong with an injury or something, I do know that I was also an academic All-American," Evans said. "I can attend grad school and continue toward a career in business."

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