The Texas Tech basketball team made tremendous strides this season, putting the Big 12 and the rest of the country on notice that basketball is back in Lubbock.
The 2017-2018 squad improved significantly from a 18-14 season last year, to a 27-10 record this season and went further in the NCAA Tournament than any other Texas Tech team - the Elite Eight.
It took a coaching change from Tubby Smith to Chris Beard and the addition of some extremely talented young freshman to get Red Raider basketball to this point of success. However, the main factor in this season’s progress was senior guard Keenan Evans. Despite suffering a mid-season injury, Evans came back stronger than ever and caught the attention of college basketball fans across the nation.
Although falling to No. 2 Villinova in the Elite Eight round, 71-59, Evans put up some solid stats and led the Red Raider with 12 points, four assists and two steals. However, Evans has shown the ability to create more for his teammates and himself than he did against the Bulldogs.
He posted his season-high in points with 38 against Texas and assists with seven against Savannah State. Evans has displayed an ability to rise above adversity when playing top-ranked opponents like No. 23 Florida and No. 11 Purdue. With the NCAA spotlight centered on Evans, one question remains. Where will he land in the upcoming NBA Draft?
There’s no debate this class of athletes is stacked, which includes Oklahoma’s Trae Young, Kansas guard Devonte Graham and of course DeAndre Ayton of Arizona. Even with the majority of the spotlight on Young and his run in the Big 12 Conference, the argument can be made that Evans would be a better NBA guard than the freshman one-and-done.
In the 88-78 win over the Sooners, Evans posted 26 points, 10 more than Young and forced the Sooner to commit six turnovers. When the pressure is on, Evans puts his motor into second gear and gets the ball rolling.
With that being said, this year’s draft has so many assets that any franchise would love to grab. Even with all the talent he posses that can translate at the next level, Evans will probably be a late first round pick or an early second round of the NBA Draft.
There are several team’s that could use a sixth man off the bench to generate offense like Evans can. Atlanta has the third pick, which will likely go to a man with size like Michael Porter or Marvin Bagley, the 19th pick and the 33rd pick. The late first round pick or second round selection for the Hawks could go to the Red Raider seeing as Atlanta has been less than stellar with its guard play.
There are several additional options such as Detroit, New York, and Indiana. Each of which lacks the talent of a strong ball handler. Even after drafting Frank Ntilikina as the eighth pick in the first round, his play has not satisfied the hungry fans of the big apple. With Phil Jackson long gone, it’s likely Evans could be sporting the blue and orange and be a backup for Ntilkina.
However, I see a team who has a tradition of winning, but has fallen short year after year; the Detroit Pistons. We all know of the “Bad Boy” era the Pistons enjoyed, but how can they get that winning mentality back?
The answer is Keenan Evans. With Andre Drummond and Blake Griffin at the block, this team has potential to make a run in the East next season, but they need someone other than Reggie Jackson leading the way. That’s where Evans and his dog-like mentality come into play.
We also can’t rule out the Pacers, who have the 20th pick in the first round. Now that Evans has grabbed the attention of basketball fans everywhere, Indiana needs to seriously consider putting this cog in its machine. Combine Evans with Victor Oladipo, Myles Turner and Domantas Sabonis, you have yourself a team that could make a run at an NBA championship in a few years.
Wherever he lands in the upcoming draft, the franchise that picks him up will not be sorry. All eyes will be on the Red Raider come June 21st.