Sacramento Kings guard Tyreke Evans turns 23 years old today. Not that long ago, Reke was a high school senior with tons of hype and a sky-is-the-limit ceiling, which, it should be noted, he still has. In celebration of the point guard’s born day, here’s the first ink Evans ever received in this magazine: a PUNKS feature from SLAM 111 (September ’07). Enjoy. —Ed.
by Aggrey Sam / portraits Peter Yang
Smooth as silk. There’s no other way to describe Tyreke Evans’ game. Evans doesn’t simply drive to the hole, he glides, using his long strides and uncanny body control to maneuver his path through defenders and to the cup, finishing with flair. He doesn’t just shoot the ball, he slings in high-arcing rainbows with deadly accuracy. The kid they call “Too Easy” doesn’t drop dimes, he fires thread-the-needle bullets like a sniper with a scope.
“The completeness of his game sets him apart. It’s not just his talent, but how cerebral he is,” says Tony Bergeron, Evans’ high school coach at American Christian School in Aston, PA. “He’s a great high school player, but he’ll be a better college player and an even better pro.”
If it sounds like Bergeron is just hyping up his own player, you obviously haven’t seen Reke hoop. In fact, the now 6-6, 205-pound combo guard from the ballplayer breeding ground of Chester, PA, has been hearing those types of statements since damn near the first time he stepped on a court. At the age of 4, he played with 8-year-olds in a local youth league and dominated. When he was 9, SLAM’s newest diary keeper was already playing with eighth-graders, and he signed his first autograph at age 10 after hitting a halfcourt game-winner. By the time Reke reached seventh grade, he was playing varsity for American Christian, scoring 27 in his first game against Luol Deng’s Blair Academy team. After ninth grade, he dropped 32 in a summer-league game against fellow Chester native Jameer Nelson. As a soph, he put up 49 points on powerhouse Hargrave Military Academy.
This past season, his junior year, Evans averaged 25 ppg, 10 rpg and 8 apg on a squad loaded with D-I prospects and facing a brutal national schedule to boot, and this summer he is one of only two high school underclassmen at this summer’s USA Under-19 National Team tryouts (Drew Gordon is the other).
With all of his accolades and accomplishments, you would think Reke would be a little stuck on himself. Quite the contrary. “Tyreke’s a superstar who doesn’t want to be treated like a superstar,” says Bergeron, a Bronx native who doubles as director of the famed Five-Star Basketball Camp. “There’s no monster ego.”
“I just think of myself as a regular kid, a regular ballplayer,” says Evans. “I don’t really like to talk that much, so I let them handle most of it.”
Evans’ demeanor—particularly off the court—is very different from his flashy game. Quiet is an understatement—he’s downright shy, preferring to put up jumpers after being interviewed and let “them,” his four older brothers (Doc, Reggie, Pooh and Dion), known locally as “Team Tyreke,” do the talking. “His teachers, the principal, they can’t believe he’s still the same kid from seventh grade,” says Doc, 36, a Desert Storm vet. “He’s even played with LeBron and Mike, but it never goes to his head.”
“That’s the way he’s always been from day one,” adds Dion, 26. “To this day, I’ve never heard him brag.”
“A lot of negativity comes to us as his brothers because of all the hype,” says Reggie, 34, the architect of Tyreke’s AAU team, Team Final. “But we don’t let anybody inside the circle.”
They also don’t let Tyreke get away with dogging it. “Sometimes I’m just cool with passing the ball, or I don’t play D all the time. That’s when they get on me,” says Reke, who will decide between attending Louisville, local favorite Villanova and a host of other colleges before his senior year.
“He’s at the point where he can beat you in one gear. Sometimes he plays down to the level of competition,” says Pooh, 30, a star at Chester HS and a 1,000-point scorer at D-II Cheyney University. “His biggest weakness is he doesn’t give the same effort on D as he does on offense.”
That perceived complacency is what recently prompted some recruiting experts to move him down in the rankings. “When you’ve been on the top for so long, people look for someone to knock you off,” observes Reggie. “But I’ll say this: Any of the players ranked ahead of him are in trouble.”