Dana Evans’ Journey to Becoming a 2021 WNBA Champion

It’s April 15, 2021, the day of the WNBA draft. It’s a day that Evans has prayed for and labored so laborious for since she was a fifth grader carrying round a recruitment letter with sizzling cheeto fingerprints on it from Valparaiso College, a small DI college proper outdoors of her roots in Gary, IN.

Surrounded by her mother and father Damon and Shwanda, in addition to different family members, Evans receives the lengthy anticipated, and overdue, name from the Dallas Wings. She has been chosen first within the second spherical with the thirteenth decide within the draft. For Evans, this lovely second got here with slight disappointment—she anticipated to be drafted a lot larger. 

“Truthfully, I used to be slightly upset as a result of I believed I ought to have [gone] earlier,” Evans says trying again. “Everybody that I talked to previous to the draft informed me that I used to be a primary spherical decide, for positive. Early on, high 5, lowest could be like high eight that I [would]  fall, so it was shocking to me however it was additionally a blessing.”

Regardless of sliding a number of spots down the board, the second was nonetheless a dream come true. 

“That’s one thing that I dreamed about. Listening to my title being referred to as was one thing that I’ve all the time needed. So it was nonetheless one thing that I have a look at, and thank God for, as a result of like I mentioned, that’s what I labored for my complete life. And I lastly did it.”

For Evans, her spirituality is what retains her optimistic and hopeful it doesn’t matter what happens. Being a 5-6 guard (on a “good day” she as soon as tweeted) got here with being missed, and for her, this was one other second the place she knew that trusting the method was key. All through her basketball journey, Evans has needed to look previous perfection and remind herself to not rush issues. She believes that God all the time has a plan and timeline. 

Evans is from Gary, Indiana, a small metropolis that’s despatched a handful of gamers to the professionals, together with Glenn “Huge Canine” Robinson (Bucks), Dick “Cranium” Barnett (Knicks) and Wilson Eison (Lakers). Her hometown instilled a way of toughness in her, as she noticed issues round her neighborhood that compelled her to develop up quick. 

“Rising up in Gary groomed me into the particular person I’m right this moment,” Evans says. “It made me powerful, it made me blue collar, It made me recognize the little issues in life as effectively. To not take something as a right. Seeing folks that I grew up with get killed or go to jail for one thing that would have been prevented is unhappy watching however that was simply the truth. I’ll say it helped me mature faster than ordinary. However it made me the particular person I’m right this moment.”

The sport has one other method of educating you methods to cope with adversity. After spending slightly over a month on the Dallas Wings’ roster, Evans was traded to the Chicago Sky, which meant she was lower than an hour away from the 219. She discovered a way of consolation within the transfer.

“I feel it was the most effective transfer for me,” Evans tells SLAM. “Me being near residence, me with the ability to be the backup level guard for [Courtney] Vandersloot and be taught from her is big.Dallas had lots of guards so I didn’t assume that was the most effective match for me. And that’s okay, as a result of it’s lots of ladies out right here that’s actually good. So, discovering the best slot in a company is vital on this League.”

Chicago offered the right alternative for Evans to thrive, as she joined a stacked roster with perennial All-Star veteran Candace Parker, Courtney Vandersloot, in addition to elite hooper Diamond DeSheids and Kahleah Copper. Assistant coach Olaf Lange and Parker had been two folks that basically welcomed the rookie with open arms.

“Candace is anyone that I all the time needed to get photos with after video games and I by no means might as a result of it was all the time so laborious,” Evans says. “I all the time used to go to the Sky video games and I used to see Vandersloot, even Sylvia Fowles when [she] was on the Sky. So going from watching them after which taking part in with them after which additionally taking part in towards two of my favourite gamers within the Finals was truthfully thoughts blowing, as a result of it’s like, I’m actually right here.”

Though Evans’ profession began off as considerably of a curler coaster, it’s been nothing wanting full circle moments. She performed in 23 common season video games this previous season and was named to the WNBA All-Rookie staff, averaging 3.9 factors and 1.2 dimes. 

The previous 2x ACC Participant of the Yr went from being missed within the draft to now sending the Dallas Wings residence within the first spherical of the playoffs and successful a WNBA championship towards Diana Taurasi and the Phoenix Mercury in entrance of 10,000-plus followers in Recreation 4 of the Finals.

“Truthfully, that was the most effective time of my life, particularly with the ability to do it with my household, with my associates, the folks that I grew up with near residence,” Evans says. “It was huge as a result of I feel whenever you do it with folks that [have] been there with you from begin to end, it makes it slightly higher simply because they understand how laborious it’s been, they know what I’ve been via—they understand how unhealthy I’ve been wanting the championship, and to get it on the highest stage was loopy.”

Somebody who can actually communicate to the testomony of Evans’ basketball profession and the way far she’s come is her former Westside Excessive Faculty coach and Indiana Basketball Corridor of Famer Rodney Fisher. He first began teaching Evans when she was within the fifth grade and have become her coach once more as soon as she began attending Westside. It was her protection that stood out to him most. 

“That’s what offered me,” Fisher tells SLAM. “She was simply excellent and relentless on protection. Couldn’t shoot the ball, didn’t have the handles, however you [could] see her willingness to be taught and simply how laborious she performed. Only a nice, nice perspective. The need to win. The time that she put in, even within the fourth and fifth grade, she put within the time. So all the pieces she’s gotten she’s earned.”

Main the pack at Westside her junior and senior 12 months of highschool, Evans scored 2,832 profession factors, the fifth-most in state historical past. As a senior in 2016-17, she helped lead Westside to a 20-7 file whereas averaging 36 factors, 7.6 rebounds, and 6.2 assists. 

She had her choices of taking part in at Purdue, Tennessee or Louisville, and finally selected to take her abilities to the Cardinals and go well with up for head coach Jeff Walz. Her four-year profession at UL was nothing wanting spectacular: as a freshman, Evans was named to the ACC All-Freshman staff in 2018 and the next season she doubled her scoring common from 5.1 factors to 10.4, incomes ACC Sixth Participant of the Yr.

That was just the start: she turned issues up as a junior and have become the primary participant within the historical past of the convention, males or girls, to go from Sixth POY to ACC Participant of the Yr. As a senior, Evans averaged 20.1 factors and performed a key position in main the Cardinals to the Elite Eight.

“Louisville was the stepping stone to get to the place I actually needed to go in life. Clearly, graduating faculty and taking part in at that stage was large too as a result of that’s one thing that I needed to do as a youthful child, and with the ability to lastly do it was large,” Evans tells SLAM. “Louisville helped groom [me] and made me higher on and off the court docket.”

With all that she’s completed all through her profession, Fisher says that Evans hasn’t switched up in any respect. She’s nonetheless only a child from Gary.

“She’s bought so many accolades from highschool to school and being drafted, however she’s all the time level-headed. It’s by no means about her,” Fisher says. “She nonetheless comes over to the home, , at any time when she will. She makes everyone really feel like I’m actually one thing particular. And she or he doesn’t have to try this.” 

Pictures through Getty Photographs.


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