We've spent a lot of time talking about Shabazz Napier and Ryan Boatright and Tyler Olander -- the (relative) veterans of a decidedly young and inexperienced bunch. But a name often overlooked because he didn't arrive in Storrs until after last season is guard R.J. Evans. The former Holy Cross player transferred to UConn in the spring and at 22 he truly is the veteran of the bunch. He also brings this team some much needed leadership, even if it's in a supplementary role.
“I’m just really grateful to be here,” Evans said according to the Norwich Bulletin's Marc Allard. “Every day that I wake up, I’m still in shock that I’m really here and I have to go to the gym and get my work in. I just feel comfortable here, it just feels right.”
So what does Evans mean this team?
“It was big time,” coach Kevin Ollie said. “He’s been wonderful and I can’t say enough words about him. He’s been great, he’s given us that rock that we needed -- the person in the locker room who can talk to the guys.”
And that presence really can't be understated. Napier has pledged to be a better leader, something he struggled with at times a year ago because, well, he was a sophomore. It happens. But Evans, who grew up in Connecticut a huge Huskies fan, has experienced plenty. And it will serve the Huskies well in this season of transition from top-flight national program to middle-of-the-pack Big East squad that won't be participating in the NCAA Tournament.
“We’re all just really learning again and again,” Evans said of his new surroundings and his new team. “It feels different, but it’s still college basketball and I’m just out here to play my hardest and help my team win.”