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Forging own path, N-G's Chris Evans headed to Claflin

05/19/2021, 10:00am EDT
By Kevin Callahan

Kevin Callahan (@CP_KCallahan)
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Chris Evans is leaving Philadelphia to play college ball, but the graduating senior from Neumann-Goretti High School knows his last name will follow him to Claflin University.

The 6-foot-3 sturdy shooting guard is the son of Howard Evans, the masterful point guard for John Chaney’s greatest team.

Chris Evans dribbles a basketball

Chris Evans (above, last season) will spend his college years at Claflin in South Carolina. (Photo: Mark Jordan/CoBL)

“Everywhere I go I’m either going to be compared to him or it’s going to be mentioned,” Evans said about his dad, who was elected into the Temple Athletic Hall of Fame in 1999 just a decade after wearing the Cherry and White. “But I want to write my own legacy and I will always be tied to him.”

The elder Evans played in 132 games from 1984-1988, leading the Owls to the nation's No. 1 ranking as a senior. Although he still scored 1,459 points on loaded teams, he was best known for his steady playmaking, posting records for assists in a career (748), in a season (294 in 1987-88) and in a game (20 against Villanova in the Big 5 “Game of the Decade” in 1988).

 He was also Temple's all-time free throw leader, shooting 84.1 percent. He was fearless and flawless. The younger Evans has been a standout shooter his entire career, making 40.8% from deep as a senior while averaging 10.5 points in 10 games.

The Atlantic 10 Conference Rookie of the Year (1984-85 season), the elder Evans left North Broad Street holding the Conference records for career assists (381) and assists in a season (164 in 1987-88). 

Evans was named to the All-A-10 First Team as a senior and an argument can be made as the league’s Most Valuable Player. He was also All-Big 5 in 1987-88 . He was inducted into the Big 5 Hall of Fame in 1994.

Really, how does anyone duplicate Howard Evans’ career?

The comparison to his famous father won’t be as prevalent, though, at Claflin, a private historically black university in Orangeburg, South Carolina. 

Still, the connection to his dad will trail Chris Evans south since  the Panthers head coach Ricky Jackson’s hometown is Philadelphia and he, not surprisingly, knows Howard Evans.

“The head coach is from Philly, so I think it will be a good thing to learn from him,” Chris Evans said. 

Jackson, who began his coaching career in 1989 as a student assistant while attending Virginia Union, returned to Philadelphia after graduating in 1992 and coached at Ridley High School.

Jackson then crossed the river into South Jersey to coach at the Gloucester County College, where Coppin State legendary coach Ronald “Fang” Mitchell got his start in college.

Starting in 1996 as a Roadrunners’ assistant, Jackson moved into the head coaching role in 2001-2002 and posted a staggering overall record of 184-46 (.810 winning percentage) during seven seasons.

In 2005-2006, the Roadrunners reached the championship game of the NJCAA Division III National Championship before falling to North Lake College of Texas. 

 “The coach knows my dad and I knew about the program and so I felt it was a fit,” said Evans, who is planning to major in mass communications.

This past truncated season for N-G, Evans was named Catholic League Coaches' All-League Third Team as the Saints finished an uncharacteristic 4-6.

“The season ended so abruptly and, of course, it didn’t end how we wanted it, with the playoffs, in the states and none of that,” Evans said. “So I’m looking to move past that and see what college brings.”

As a junior averaging 8.1 points per game, Evans helped Neumann-Goretti to a 66-58 victory over Roman Catholic before a packed Palestra.

The win was historic for Neumann-Goretti coach Carl Arrigale, who set the Philadelphia Catholic League with his 11th title as a coach, one more than former Roman Catholic coach Dennis Seddon.

It was Neumann Goretti’s 21st league title, but first since capturing six in a row from 2009-2014 and so Evans will always be able to cherish the PCL title as he embarks on a new challenge.

Claflin competes in the Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association (CIAA), a Division II league, which is the first and longest-running African American athletic conference in the country.

In basketball, the CIAA also consists of Bowie State, Elizabeth City State, Fayetteville State, Johnson C. Smith, Livingstone, Saint Augustine's and Pennsylvania’s Lincoln.

“I know they play Lincoln and a lot of Philly kids go to Lincoln,” Evans said.

Last season, the CIAA cancelled men's and women's basketball due to COVID.

“I visited last week and that’s what he was saying,” Evans said about Jackson, who arrived at Claflin in 2013 after serving as the men’s top assistant at Shaw University, talking about a fresh start for everyone. “Since they didn’t play last year, everyone has to work for their spot and, guaranteed, I’m coming in to work for my spot.”

His last name won’t help him win a starting job, only fueling him to be the best he can be.

“I will do whatever the team needs from me,” Evans said. “If the coach asks me to be more aggressive, I’ll do that, if he needs me to play more defense, I’ll do that, hustle more, doesn’t matter.

“It was the same at Neumann-Goretti, everyone had to sacrifice and I’ll do the same at the next level, too.”

 


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