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Jacob Evans: An Appreciation

With Evans headed off to the greener pastures of the NBA, its time to look back at his three excellent years as a Bearcat.

Tulsa v Cincinnati Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images

The Career Numbers

  • 11.7 points per game
  • 4.3 rebounds
  • 2.5 assists
  • 1.1 steals
  • .429/.377/.755

Jacob Evans was and continues to be a very good basketball player. For three years, he plied that trade with the Cincinnati Bearcats. He did so well in his time at UC, and with his development, that he is now destined for the NBA. No, he will not be going No. 1 overall like Kenyon Martin, but he is certainly going to be getting a real shot at making an NBA roster and continuing to be a very good basketball player for years to come.

Evans was one of the most impressive recruiting additions of the Mick Cronin era. Born in North Carolina and reared in Louisiana, Evans was a top 100 prospect for the 2015 class and a four-star prospect across the recruiting coverage landscape. He was a different type of prospect for Cronin, as he was a guy that put scoring first. He scored more than 2,000 points in high school, including an incredible 24.9 points per game during his senior season. That meant when he came in, the expectation was that he would be dropping buckets. He certainly did that. While he only averaged 8.4 points per game in his freshman season, he was still putting together 13.8 per 40 minutes and posting an offensive rating of 113.7 while slowly gobbling up playing time, eventually supplanting Shaq Thomas as a starting wing.

In his last two seasons, Evans became an even more dangerous scorer and one that was leaned on heavily. With his ability to pull up from long range and create shots from beyond the arc to right around the rim, he was able to do a bit of everything. He averaged at least 13 points per game in each of his last two seasons, which might not sound like a lot, but considering UC’s pace of play, it was pretty solid. Over 40 minutes, he would have averaged roughly 17 points per game in those second two seasons all while shooting 37.7 percent from three during his career.

Without a doubt, his best season was his sophomore year, when he drilled 41.8 percent from long range and shot 47.3 percent overall. He took more shots this past year, but a late season swoon hurt his final line, even if a mark of .427/.370/.754 for a player who takes a lot of shots from mid-range and beyond is still pretty great. Even with those numbers, and a 10-point drop in offensive rating from his sophomore to junior year, Evans still had a PER above 20 in 2017-18 while continuing to be the leading scorer for the Bearcats.

We could keep talking about Evans as a scorer for decades, but that would leave the other important developments he made and skills that he has out in the cold. As he progressed, Evans became an incredibly strong defender and even developed his ability to set up other players, adding even more depth to his offensive game.

Starting with defense, Evans committed to Cronin’s vision early on and never let up. A 95.9 defensive rating as a freshman showed that he was more than comfortable defending at a higher level, while his 88.3 mark this past season illustrated just how far he’s come. He also had 3.1 defensive win shares this past season, while continuing his special skill set for creating turnovers and even developing as a shot blocker. No, he’s not going to be Anthony Davis, but the fact that he tallied 1.3 steals and 1.0 blocks per game means he was one of only two Bearcats to average at least one of each. The other player was Gary Clark, who you might have heard is pretty good.

Turning to distribution, Evans’ maturation as an offensive player should serve him well at the next level because it certainly did in college. Instead of just chucking up shots and ignoring his teammates, Evans became much better at knowing what the best offensive play for the team was and not just for himself. He averaged a career-high 3.1 assists per game in 2017-18 and ranked behind only Cane Broome and Justin Jenifer (two point guards by trade) in assist percentage. Knowing when to make the extra pass to get a better look and not just play hero ball is a real skill that the Bearcats needed from Evans and they got it in spades.

Marshall v Cincinnati Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images

The Best of the Best

Nov. 24, 2015 vs. Southeastern Louisiana

Although he played at least 20 minutes per game in his first four appearances, it was this game that really solidified him as a player that could cut it. Evans finished with 15 points on 4-of-8 shooting while grabbing six rebounds. It was his third double-figure scoring game of his early career but first time above 10 points.

Dec. 2, 2015 vs. Butler

If he showed he could hang against SELA, he proved he could dominate against Butler. Even though the Bearcats lost this game, Evans scored 16 points and had four rebounds and as many assists against a nationally ranked program.

Dec. 22, 2015

Once again, a ranked opponent didn’t scare Evans, who knocked down 4-of-8 shots and finished with 14 points, five rebounds, two assists and a couple blocks.

Feb. 27, 2016 at East Carolina

In the fourth start of his career, Evans played the entire 40 minutes and netted 18 points to go with seven rebounds. He would start every game the rest of the season.

March 18, 2016 vs. St. Joseph’s

A disappointment in the final score put a blemish on a wonderful first taste of the NCAA Tournament for Evans, who had 26 points and nine rebounds.

Nov. 11, 2016 vs. Brown

If you thought Evans was going to endure a sophomore slump, you were wrong. In the first game of the season, Evans made 9-of-12 shots and netted 23 points.

Nov. 19, 2016 vs. Rhode Island

So the Bearcats didn’t win, but Evans poured in 24 points on a sparkling 8-of-12 shooting, while contributing six rebounds.

Dec. 22, 2016 vs. Marshall

This game was much more difficult that it should have been, but Evans was on his superhero ish and dropped in 25 points to go with five assists, four steals and four boards.

Jan. 26, 2017 vs. Xavier

Evans didn’t have the best introduction to the Crosstown Shootout, but his second try was a major success. Not only did UC win, but Evans had 21 points and seven rebounds in 37 minutes.

March 10, 2017 vs. Tulsa

Imagine being so on with your shot that you make 8-of-10 from the field and finish with 20 points in a conference tournament game.

March 11, 2017 vs. UConn

Then imagine putting in 21 points the very next day.

Nov. 10, 2017 vs. Savannah State

Evans’ junior campaign started strong as well, with a stat-sheet-stuffing affair of 19 points, seven rebounds, five assists, two steals and two blocks.

Dec. 2, 2017 at Xavier

Once again, Evans gave it his best effort against the Musketeers. He played all 40 minutes and made all six of his shots from two-point range, as well as three triples, to finish with 23 points.

Dec. 12, 2017 vs. Mississippi State

His 24 points in this game were a season-high and marked the ninth and final 20-point game of his career.

Jan. 4, 2018 at Temple

Jan. 7, 2018 vs SMU

UC dominated the Mustangs in no small way because of Evans. He tied with Clark for a game-high 18 points while draining 7-of-14 from the floor and handing out four assists.

Jan. 32, 2018 vs. Houston

He was ice-cold to start, missing seven of his first eight shots, but Evans helped lead a stunning comeback with 18 points, seven rebounds, five assists and two steals.

Feb. 3, 2018 at UConn

Another area of Evans’ game that improved over the years was his work at the free-throw line. He really made use of the charity stripe in this one, finishing with 19 points, with his 9-of-10 effort from the foul line being the biggest part of that.

March 4, 2018 at Wichita State

This wasn’t his prettiest effort, but Evans helped the Bearcats win the American Athletic Conference regular season title with 19 points and seven rebounds.

A Final Goodbye

Evans has already started to turn heads in the short aftermath of his collegiate career, impressing at the NBA Draft combine and getting his name inserted into the top 25 of more than a few mock drafts. As the league shifts to a more three-point focused angle, Evans should flourish since he can shoot from deep and adds excellent defensive acumen. While it would have been great if he came back for his senior season, there’s absolutely no reason to be upset that he is going to go out and get paid, while serving as an excellent ambassador for Bearcat hoops. Now can the draft happen already so I know which team site I need to go to get an Evans jersey?