DIBIASE: Villanova does not need Tyreke Evans

Justin Dibiase

When five-star basketball recruit Tyreke Evans verbally committed to the University of Memphis a few weeks ago, there were more than a few Wildcat fans who were upset over the hometown star’s decision. Initially, I thought getting a recruit like Evans would bolster our status as one of the great places to play college basketball. However, after much deliberation, I think ‘Nova Nation is better off without Evans.

There is barely any doubt that Evans will be playing only one season for Memphis. Villanova has not had a freshman go directly to the draft during the Jay Wright era. As is the case for many high school seniors, Evans was not looking for the school that he liked the most. He was looking for the program that would allow him to shine in his freshman season – a one-year NBA tryout, if you will.

The accolades that Evans has garnered have not come without his fair share of criticisms. The most glaring weakness to his game is his selfish play. He was the MVP of the McDonald’s All-American game but did not play a flawless game to say the least. He dished out four assists but also committed a team-high five turnovers.

DraftExpress.com recently scouted Evans during a Jordan Brand Classic Game on April 21 and had this to say about his performance: “Despite being the game’s MVP while scoring 23 points (8-15 FG, four assists, five turnovers, seven rebounds, 25 minutes), Evans frequently over-dribbled and forced his own shots, ignoring his teammates for large stretches, earning groans from many of those in attendance.”

I think it would be fair to say that this description is not Wildcat basketball.

When I see the numbers, hear the critics and watch Evans receive attention from all types of sports media outlets, one name comes to mind: DaJuan Wagner.

Wagner was also a local high school basketball star who played across the bridge at Camden High. Wagner, like Evans, wasn’t shy about shooting the basketball, averaging 42.5 points per game as senior. He is also remembered for scoring 100 points in a game during his senior season. Like Evans, Wagner lit it up in the McDonald’s All American game, scoring 25 points in a star-studded game. Wagner then went on to commit to John Calipari and the Memphis Tigers. Sound familiar?

Wagner’s highly anticipated freshman season did not turn out as planned for Memphis. The team did not make the field of 65 in the NCAA tournament. Wagner, however, used Memphis as a way to catapult himself to the sixth overall pick in the ’02 NBA Draft. The highly touted freshman came and left Memphis without creating any lasting imprint on the landscape of Memphis basketball.

However, there have been superstar freshmen who have made great impacts on programs. Carmelo Anthony’s one-year stint at Syracuse under Jim Boeheimwas worthwhile after leading the Orange to the ’03 National Championship.

Greg Oden and Mike Conley Jr. left Ohio State after only one season but provided the school with a memorable run to last year’s NCAA Championship game.

Evans’ situation seems to be more similar to Wagner than Oden and Anthony.

The sheer logistics of the possibility of Evans coming to Villanova raised eyebrows. With the talented rising-sophomore guards Corey Stokes and Corey Fisher and the team’s leading scorer Scottie Reynolds, Evans would most likely not have been playing the kind of minutes that he would like. With the departure of Derrick Rose from Memphis, Evans saw an opportunity to be the No. 1 option.

The last time Villanova signed a top five recruit was six years ago in the form of Jason Fraser. Despite also being a McDonald’s All-American, Fraser was completely different from Evans. He fit into the system and, more importantly, fit into Villanova. Despite his injury problems, Fraser will always be one of the most beloved Wildcats of all time for his four years spent on the Main Line.

Evans was raised in a crime-ridded area of Chester, Pa., and his safety each and every day is in question, as Evans’ friends and relatives have lately been involved in fatal shootings. Evans should want to move as far away from Chester as possible, and Memphis, is obviously a lot farther than Villanova. I’m sure that event staff and public safety officers would have had to enforce stricter measures in order to ensure Evans’ safety. So the question arises, would Evans be more of a headache than a positive here?

Villanova basketball is not about individuals. It’s not about Randy Foye or Allan Ray or Curtis Sumpter. It’s not about Ed Pinckney. It’s not about Jay Wright. It’s about ‘Nova Nation. The team, its fans and the Wildcat community make Villanova one of the best places in the world to play, coach or watch a basketball game See you in March, Tigers.


Justin DiBiase is a junior civil engineering major from Franklinville, N.J. He can be reached at [email protected].