After a heartbreaking National Championship loss to Kansas, losing three starters, and losing two assistant coaches, most Memphis Tigers fans would think this will be a "rebuilding" year, but one recruit changed everything. His name is Tyreke Evans.
The 6'6", 220 combo guard received many tags during his high school career, but the most common? Ball hog. Many scouts questioned his ability to play on a team where he is not the star player, or even the leading scorer. Seven games into the season, most fans are labeling him as "raw talent." The scoring machine in high school, where he averaged over 32 points per game, is now just being labeled as a "project" player.
All the criticism he has received is just making him work harder. According to his coach John Calipari, Evans is one of the hardest working players he has ever coached, not only at Memphis, but in all his years of coaching. Calipari also mentioned that Evans has all the talent to be not only a star in the college level, but also at the professional level.
For the most part Evans has been showing a lot of glimpses of his high school hype, but he has one HUGE flaw: his horrendous field goal percentage.
Evans is shooting just barely above 40 percent, and most of his points come from the line and strong drives to the basket. Evans is certainly not the player with the ball in his hands with 15 seconds left in a close game. He definably is not expected to take over in the second half by hitting midrange jumpers and three-pointers.
According to Coach Calipari, Evans is still making "freshman mistakes" and being asked to do too much.
Memphis fans have seen many great players in the last few years, but no one in the history of the program had made as big an impact as Derrick Rose did just last year. Like Evans, Rose was also a highly touted recruit out of high school and had many of the same characteristics as Evans. Both players are very strong, very athletic, and love going to the hole to score points.
Evans came to Memphis as the team's new star freshman, and a year after Memphis fans experienced Rose carrying Memphis through a magical season, many fans expected Evans to have a similar impact to what Rose had his freshman year.
What many fans do not realize is that Rose struggled his first few games as well. Rose himself said, "He looked like me my first few games," referring to Memphis's loss to Xavier, where Evans had 12 points and was the team's leading scorer, but struggled to find his shot, shooting just 25 percent on 4 of 16 shooting. This field goal percentage would improve drastically the next two games.
Possibly the most underrated aspect of Evans's game is his defense. Evans is 6'6", but his wingspan is over seven feet. His freakishly long arms made Coach Calipari say that Evans could be one of the nation's best defenders soon. Evans is no Bruce Bowen yet, and is not a lockdown defender ether, but his long arms, speed, and athleticism always make him a threat to intercept passes or be a good help defender.
Evans came in as the new star freshman and an NBA lottery pick for the Tigers. Evans has said numerous times that if his stock is good, he will enter the draft. Evans has been criticized since his first day in Memphis. Will he prove the doubters wrong?