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STORY: Will Evans lean to football or basketball?
Will it be football or basketball?
By Dave Johnson | firstname.lastname@example.org
HAMPTON — Someday, Jontel Evans will have to make a choice. At least, that’s what he keeps hearing.
Football or basketball? Tailback or point guard? Inquiring minds want to know: What sport does he see himself playing in college?
“Some of my friends ask me that all the time,” said Evans, Bethel’s two-sport whiz kid. “Some grown-ups ask me. My mom asks me. Everybody asks me. I think about it all the time, too, but I haven’t decided yet. It’s too early.”
He is, after all, only a high school junior. And as much success as he’s having, you can see why he’s in no hurry. In football, he’s a durable runner who has rushed for 1,632 yards in 12 varsity games. In basketball, he was the Bruins’ top scorer last year with 13.4 points a game.
His size — 5-foot-11, 193 pounds — makes him ideal for either position.
“He’s a kid who runs hard,” Bethel football coach Jeff Nelson said. “I mean, he just puts his head down and goes.”
“He’s a tough kid who will guard you,” local AAU guru Boo Williams said. “Definitely a Division I prospect.”
To answer the question Evans has been asked about 146 times this week alone, basketball was his first love. Football was just something to do. When he was 8 years old, as he remembers, he suited up for the Aberdeen Mighty Mites. But that winter, he played basketball and was hooked.
As a freshman at Bethel, Evans played JV football and varsity basketball. The summer before his sophomore year, he played on Williams’ 15-and-under AAU team. He did his best to keep up with football conditioning, but from what he kept hearing it wasn’t enough
Rumors flew that then-Bruins football coach Tracey Parker wasn’t going to elevate Evans to varsity for the 2006 season. Evans thought about chucking football then and there, but a talk with Parker cleared the air. In his first varsity game, he ran for 73 yards. In his second, 192 yards and a touchdown. And in his third, 227 yards and two scores.
As Bethel’s only offensive threat last season, Evans finished with 1,344 yards and seven touchdowns on 24 carries per game. It was the bright spot of a season that ended with four consecutive losses and resulted in a coaching change.
After making the transition to basketball last winter, Evans led the Bruins in scoring. Then came another productive summer with Williams’ AAU team.
“He’s a really good point guard, and those are hard to come by,” Williams said. “He’s becoming a much better shooter and he’ll defend you 94 feet. Just a tough, tough guy.”
We’ve seen two-sport wonders around here before. Allen Iverson led Bethel to state championships in both football, as the quarterback, and basketball, as the point guard. Ronald Curry is remembered most for winning three state football championships at Hampton, but he also scored 1,819 points on the basketball team.
Iverson and Curry often said playing two sports made them better at each. Evans sees that as well.
“My physical ability in football crosses over to basketball,” he said. “So when I go to the lane and get fouled, it doesn’t really affect me because I’m physically built. And my quickness in basketball crosses over to football, and I can use it to get away from linebackers.”
So far, Evans says he has received recruiting correspondence only from basketball programs. That’s at least partly due to the fact that he played basketball during the summer and didn’t attend any football camps. Under NCAA rules, recruiters cannot directly contact Evans until his junior year ends.
But football interest should pick up soon enough. He’s off to another good start with 288 yards and five touchdowns in two games. In last week’s 30-27 loss to Phoebus, Evans rushed for 161 yards and three scores — including a 64-yarder on Bethel’s first play from scrimmage.
“That’s as good a game as any running back’s had against us in a long time,” Phantoms coach Bill Dee said. “We normally don’t give up a lot of yards against the run. He has great vision and a knack for hitting the gaps.”
Just like he has a knack for creating in the open floor. The question is, which will he be doing in college?
HRvarsity administrator / email@example.com
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