After an impressive collegiate career, Louisiana-born 21-year-old Jacob Evans may be one of the most underrated prospects in the 2018 NBA Draft.
The former Cincinnati Bearcats standout averaged 13.0 points with 4.7 rebounds, 3.1 assists, 1.3 steals and 1.0 block per game as a junior last season. The wing also averaged 1.7 three-pointers per game. After two years as a starter, he ranked Top 10 overall in three-pointers made and steals in his conference history.
As an accurate shooter, his effective field goal percentage ranks No. 5 overall in the history of the American Athletic Conference. More impressive, his box plus-minus ranks No. 2 overall in the AAC as well.
Evans, who stands a bit taller than 6-foot-4 without shoes, has a wingspan larger than 6-foot-9. His standing reach, which is above 8-foot-6, is among the best among prospects at the combine in this draft.
He caught up with HoopsHype during the chaotic week leading up to one of the most important nights of his life.
What have been some of the highlights of your pre-draft process thus far?
Jacob Evans: The past two months have been amazing, for real. It’s been a great journey for me. I was in Golden State to workout the day of the parade. To see how the city and the organization celebrated a championship made me realize this process is about a lot more than the upcoming draft. It’s really a blessing. I couldn’t be more excited about it all, honestly. I’m most excited for the day after the draft so I can get to work and help the team reach that goal. I want to bring that same joy and excitement I saw.
What kind of things have you been hearing about how you’d fit into a winning organization?
JE: A lot of teams like my intelligence. They know the things that I can do because they have seen me play in college. They know I’ve been a winner at Cincinnati. It’s been great getting positive feedback from teams that I have grown up watching and teams that I just watched in the playoffs. I know I can be a great defender. Teams think that’s my elite part of my game as a guard. Hopefully, I’m guarding the best player. That was my job at Cincinnati and I take pride in it.
What aspects of your game do you think will translate the best to the next level?
JE: I can make the right pass and knock down shots, guard, rebound, create for my teammates and create for myself when I have to as well. I’ve been showing that in my workouts and they’ve been pretty impressed with how I’m able to use the pick-and-roll and hit open guys with great passes to knock shots down when the defense collapses on me. I have a really high IQ for the game. You can put me anywhere on the court and I can play. It really doesn’t matter, I’m going to be an effective player.
How were you able to develop your game during your three seasons in college?
JE: I was a catch-and-shoot player a lot when I was in college. As I developed, though, I would also attack closeouts and be able to run with the guys on the court. I put myself and my teammates in winning situations, whether it’s getting a defensive stop or a rebound. I can do a lot more off the dribble than what people have given me credit for, too. I became more of a guy who can move without the ball in my hands, too. Growing up, I played point guard and that is more the role that I was used to but I learned how to play the wing and help in that role too. I can do a lot on the basketball court and that can be overlooked as teams look for one elite skill. Now you see a lot of guys who are bigs that can play all over the court, whether it’s either posting up or creating offensive mismatches. They can switch on defense to guards or other bigs. I feel like my game is primed for the NBA and I’m just getting started.
How do you think your perception will change once you get in the league? How do you think your perception has changed among teams that have seen you?
JE: When they talk to me and pick my brain, they see how much I know about the game. They see how versatile I am when I’m on the court. I’m looking forward to developing into a player that people don’t really see me as now. I feel like in a few years, people are going to look back and think that I was one of the sleepers in this draft. There are a lot of guys in this draft that get really hyped in this draft but I’ve always flown under the radar. I started every game the past two years, I bring it on defense every possession. I’m just ready to get to a team, get to work and just prove to everyone that they should not pass on me. I can be one of the best two-way players in the NBA in the coming years.
I know you’ve had a huge body transformation recently. What did you do to become a more tangible physical player?
JE: My collegiate strength coach, Mike Refhdelt, is hands down the best in the country. I talk to him every day because he’s done a lot for me to get my body right. I tried to manage my diet the best way I can. I eat the best things I can and I don’t put things in my body that will hurt me like drugs or alcohol. I keep that far away from me. I stay in the weight room, too. That’s where athletes are made. I do extra conditioning and extra cardio every night after my workouts. It keeps me healthy and it keeps me from getting injured and the proof is in the pudding. I hadn’t missed a game in the last two years and you see how hard we play. It’s physical and a ton of minutes. I’m going to get bigger, faster, stronger and more athletic and I’m just going to get to the next level. I was also at Impact in Las Vegas this summer and it’s been some of the best competition I’ve had.
Who’s somebody in the league that you watch and think your game can resemble?
JE: It’s definitely Jimmy Butler because he was a late first-round pick and no one really knew much about him. They thought he was going to be either a role player or a defender. Now a few years down the road, he’s an All-Star and one of the best players for a really good team. He got there off his hard work. No one is going to just give it to you so he went out there and took it. I’ve been working my butt off because I’ve had the goal of being a really good player in the league. When the ball gets on the court, that’s where I’m going to make my mark.
Are you big on fashion or are you much of a sneakerhead?
JE: I’m big on shoes and clothing. I like looking nice, of course. I’m not a Russell Westbrook type. I like Russ and I think he has opened up a lot of opportunities for other guys to show off their fashion, too. I think it’s cool to see other guys compete with what they wear. My favorite pair of shoes would be the Space Jam 11’s. They’re classic! I’ve always cherished them since I was a little kid. But the Air Jordan 1’s are cool, too. I like classics like Air Forces, Air Max’s. But I also like Yeezy’s. You see some people wearing such dope shoes like Balenciaga.
What are some things that you like to do off the court when you are not playing basketball?
JE: I’m really big on movies, I could watch them all day. I also love Law & Order: SVU and the TV show Power. I like things that relax my mind. I like rappers from Baton Rouge, too. I love Lil Wayne. I also like Lil Baby from Atlanta as well as Lil Uzi Vert. I love hanging out with friends, playing video games. I’m pretty big on Madden and I used to play with my collegiate teammates. They know that I’m the King. I love NBA 2K, too, that’s my thing. I probably play Madden more often but now that I’m about to be in the game, I’ll switch more to 2K. I used to create myself on the MyPlayer mode but I can’t wait to actually be on a roster for real. I’ll definitely get hooked.
Anything else you want to add that you think people should know about you?
JE: I just want people to know that I’m from Baton Rouge, Louisiana and we get it out the mud from there. It’s mostly seen as a football area but we have some hoopers out there, too. I just want to put it on the map.