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Returning Player Refresher: Jacob Evans

It was once said that this game is about getting buckets. Evans does that better than anyone in a Bearcat uniform.

NCAA Basketball: Memphis at Cincinnati Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

There has been a lot of talk this offeseason about scoring. That’s an odd thing to happen to the Cincinnati Bearcats. Fair or not, they are a pigeonholed as a defensive juggernaut that is painful to watch on offense. With the breakouts of Kyle Washington and Jarron Cumberland last season, as well as the additions of Cane Broome and freshmen Keith Williams and Trevor Moore, there is a lot expected on the offensive side this year. While all those players are excellent, and will make UC even more offensively dynamic, let’s not forget who the No. 1 scoring option is.

Jacob Evans was the leading scorer for the Bearcats last season and he should be once again this year. While his 13.5 points per game scoring average wasn’t Sean Kilpatrick-esque, it was better than anyone else on the roster. Plus, its not like he couldn’t mess around and drop 20 on some poor opponent’s head. In fact, he had six 20-point outings as a sophomore, including back-to-back 20-point showings in the American Athletic Conference Tournament.

What is most exhilarating about Evans the scorer is just how damn efficient he is. After posting shooting splits of .372/.333/.804 as a freshman, he really improved his shot and finishing moves. During last season, he knocked in 47.3 percent of his shots from the floor, including an impressive 41.8 percent from long range. He made nearly two triples per game, while only taking 4.6 attempts from such a distance. With a true shooting percentage of .597 and an effective field goal percentage of .570, Evans was not just chucking up shot after shot and hoping some went in. He was careful with shot selection and made the difficult ones too. His offensive work led to the third-highest PER on the team (22.8) as he led the team in offensive win shares (3.8) and win shares overall (6.0), barely squeaking past Gary Clark.

A slight jump in usage percentage also showed that Mick Cronin was putting even more trust in his sophomore small forward, particularly after Evans came through and ripped the starting job away from Shaq Thomas the previous year. That trust was clearly built on Evans’ improvements offensively, but also went hand-in-hand with his work in other areas. While his rebounding rate went down, Evans became a more willing passer as a sophomore, averaging 2.7 assists per game. In addition, he put in the work defensively, snagging 1.3 steals per game while posting a solid defensive rating (96.5).

Evans has now graduated to the role of leader. Other than Clark, there is no player on the team more important to the cause. Evans is the alpha scorer for a UC team that has watched expectations grow this summer and fall. He will be given every chance to take another step forward as a junior, especially as he plays with arguably the deepest team Mick Cronin has had since 2013-14 or 2011-12. On a team with so many contributors, not everyone can be a star, but Evans will be. If you need UC’s AAC Player of the Year and first-team all-conference contender, he’s your guy. Just wait and watch the buckets fall.