Oklahoma State is coming off a disappointing 12-20 season where they were hit with injuries to their star players and poor play. Despite finishing near the bottom of the Big 12 last season, there was a lone bright spot, Jawun Evans. The six-foot guard missed the final ten games of the season but was still named the Big 12 Freshman of the year.
Maybe it was because of Oklahoma State’s poor record but Evans did not become a household name like many freshman do after having a season like he did. Evans was the 33rd ranked high school prospect in 2015, according to ESPN, but still didn’t garner the national attention he deserved as a freshman.
A season after averaging 12.9 points, 4.9 assists, 4.4 rebounds, and 1.1 steals per game, Evans will get a second chance to make national headlines, and he’ll likely succeed. In a year where the freshman class is supposed to be one of the strongest in years, Evans has a chance to prove why he was so highly-touted coming out of high school and why he should be seen as a strong draft prospect.
Doug Gottlieb agrees, tweeting this out during the NBA draft.
Jawun Evans - OK State - Next Chris Paul. Next year is loaded.— Doug Gottlieb (@GottliebShow) June 24, 2016
That is obviously very high praise from one of the smartest college basketball analysts, but it’s also not crazy. Chris Paul has put together one of the best careers a point guard has ever had in the NBA, but Evans has a chance to put up similar numbers as a sophomore that Paul did at Wake Forest.
As a first team All-American in 2005, Paul posted 15.3 points, 6.6 assists, 4.5 rebounds, and 2.4 steals per game. He also only shot 45.1 percent from the field, but was a much better three-point shooter than Evans as he connected on 47.4 percent of his three three-point attempts per game.
When looking at how Evans played last year, there’s no doubt he should come close or surpass the numbers Paul posted as a sophomore. Evans was one of the best rebounding guards in the Big 12 last season, and that trend should continue this upcoming season.
Maybe the new addition of JUCO transfer Tyrek Coger will take away some boards, but OSU is still an undersized team who’ll need extra help on the glass from their guards.
It’s not like extra help on the glass is a bad thing either, and Coger’s impact will go beyond rebounding. The 21st ranked JUCO prospect, according to 247 sports, will quickly become one of their main options in the paint. A consistent offensive output from the Cowboys’ front court was missing last season and surely will create more options for Evans as a passer and scorer.
Not to mention that Lindy Walters and Thomas Dziagwa should see significant roles as freshmen. Both are great shooters with size, which will be great kick-out options for Evans who likes to drive on offense. The team’s best shooter, Phil Forte, missed all but three games last season, leaving Evans as the biggest three-point threat.
Not only is that not how Evans likes to play on offense, but no one else shot above 35 percent from behind the arc last season. Now Evans will get a veteran in Forte and two freshmen to help spread the floor, which will make a big difference in how teams will have to guard him.
His assists numbers already jumped up to 5.6 per game during conference play before he got hurt. Therefore, reaching the 6.6 assists per game mark that Paul set as a sophomore is more than attainable.
Obviously, the extra shooters, presence of Coger, and 6’7” forward Cameron McGriff, will also create more scoring opportunities for Evans by taking responsibility and focus off him.
Like previously noted, he likes to do his scoring by getting to rim, despite only being 6’0”. Although, Evans shot a very impressive 47.5 percent from three as a freshman, but making that a bigger part of his game will make it a lot easier for him to score.
Evans only attempted 1.8 threes per game as a freshman, but attempting around three per game would do wonders. Obviously he doesn’t want to force shots to hit that mark, but it will force defenders to respect his shot more and play off of him. That will give him a chance to see more open looks from deep or force them to play up and use his quickness to get by defenders.
Either way, with Brad Underwood as the new head coach, and a year of college basketball under his belt, Evans should continue to become a more dynamic scorer.
Even if Jawun Evans is able to jump onto the national stage and put together a very impressive stat line, which most people are expecting, it’s crazy to compare him to Chris Paul. Sure, he has a lot of the same strengths and weaknesses as Paul did coming out of college, but they also have very different games and responsibilities.
Either way, he should be in for another special season. He’ll be the go-to-guy for an improving team with a young coach. There’s no doubt Jawun Evans has a chance to become a household name next season, and I wouldn’t be surprised if he took home some hardware as a sophomore as well.
Also, don’t be surprised if he starts jumping onto mock drafts as the season goes on. Evans can play as well as he wants, however, national attention will likely come if the Cowboys start to win.