UW Health Sports Medicine 

Lucas at Large: Evans' exploration continues

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After coming off the UW bench and averaging 13 minutes of playing time during his redshirt freshman season, Ryan Evans knew that he had to expand his game. Little did he know then that he would be expanding it overseas to Belgium and Germany.

But that was the case after Evans joined the Global Sports Academy Team for its five-game European Tour in August. Along with Evans, the Big Ten was represented by Purdue's D.J. Byrd and Illinois' Tyler Griffey and Brandon Paul. Illini assistant Jay Price was the head coach.

"As a player, it expanded my game,'' said Evans, who helped Global Sports to a 5-0 record by averaging nine points. "They kind of flood the lane over there, so you have to be able to shoot.

"In every aspect of the game, I think I've gotten better this off-season. I feel stronger.  My feet are quicker. My ball-handling is better. My shot feels a lot better. I have more confidence,''

Evans led all scorers with 14 points in the Field House Madness scrimmage prior to the Oct. 16 Wisconsin-Ohio State football game. He also scored 12 in Sunday's Red-White Scrimmage at the Kohl Center.

"His overall game has improved,'' said UW associate head coach Greg Gard. "Maybe it didn't show up as much today, but he's a better shooter. I know that he has been a handful in practice. He still has a long ways to go, he's only a sophomore. But he has taken steps in the right direction.''

What will be his role on this team? "That's still to be determined,'' said Evans, who played his high school ball in Phoenix, Ariz. "I could see myself doing a lot of things.''

At 6-foot-6, 210 pounds, Evans gives the Badgers some options, whether he's utilized as a small forward (the 3 spot on the floor) or as a power  forward (the 4).

"I'm about the same weight as I was last year, but I feel a little quicker,'' Evans said. "I feel a lot lighter on my feet. And my body has developed more. I've put on muscle mass and lost fat.''

Gard noted that another year in the weight room - under the wing of strength coordinator Scott Hettenbach - coupled with the experience that Evans gained during his first exposure to in the Big Ten has made him stronger in multiple ways. "He's probably even more athletic,'' Gard said.

That's saying something.

Gard explained.

"It's one thing to be real athletic and able to make some plays defensively,'' he said. "But if you don't understand the concepts and you're out of position all the time, you end up giving up more than you create. He's starting to stay within the scheme of what we're doing defensively and then using his talent to make plays happen. I think this is where he can help us the most because he's so versatile.

"In certain lineups, he'll be able to play the 4 when we go a little bit bigger. He's physical enough now to guard a 4. And his feet are good enough when he stays within what we're doing defensively to guard a 3. He could even guard some 2's if he could chase well enough. Having a guy who's that long guard some shooters could be beneficial to us down the road.''

Gard felt Evans' growth was accelerated on the European tour.

"That was huge for him,'' he said. "Anytime you can get in a different environment where you have to adjust on the fly, it's great. Just like the Red-White game. Anytime you can get that type of experience when it's not scripted, not controlled, it's just game action, it helps grow your overall basketball knowledge because you're reading and reacting to those actions.''

Evans was grateful to Ab Nicholas, Andy North and Curt Mueller for helping create an opportunity for him to travel abroad. Among the highlights was a day of sightseeing in London, England. "It was a great experience; we got to play games and explore,'' Evans said.

Which is what he's still doing - exploring his own game.

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Evans is important this year, but Rod Wilson will have to step it up from the out side for any teams to take the Badgers serious this year. The double team that John will be getting will allow some one to step it up from the out side, and if Wilson does this along with Evans this team can compete for a first division this year.