Have Shanya, will run.
That's been the calling card for the Providence women's basketball team the last four years. The Lady Friars have fashioned themselves as an uptempo outfit ever since Bob Foley took over the program in 1985, but the pace became even more dizzying when Shanya Evans took over the point two years later.
The Evening Sun Player of the Year in 1986-87 for Walbrook High, Evans is putting the finishing touches on a record-setting career at Providence. The Lady Friars, the No. 5 seed in the East Region, open the NCAA tournament tomorrow with a home game against Fairfield. All eyes will be on Evans -- or at least trying to keep up with her.
For the second straight year, Evans stands second in the nation in assists. Her 10.0 average trails only Kent State freshman Michelle Burden's 10.1. With 967 career assists, she stands No. 2 all-time in that category in Division I history, but she's No. 1 in Foley's mind.
"Shanya gets the ball up the floor quicker than any other point guard in the country," Foley said. "She allows us to get the ball up at a breakneck pace. Sometimes she has to wait for people, and that's frustrating for her."
Evans was installed as the Friars' point guard late in her freshman season, when she averaged 5.2 assists. She increased that average to 7.4 as a sophomore and 9.7 as a junior, when
Providence was eliminated by Virginia in the NCAA East Region semifinals.
Her teammates -- including Helen Mency, a senior guard from North Hagerstown who's averaging 14.1 points -- have done a pretty good job of keeping up with Evans this season. Providence is the nation's highest-scoring team, scoring 97.2 points a game. Evans, who also has 1,221 career points, is averaging 12.3 this season.
"I love this style," Evans said. "Whoever gets the rebound gets the ball to me, and then we're supposed to get a shot off between four and six seconds. People score on us, and before they know it, we're back at the other end laying one in. Getting the team going is my job. Things couldn't have gone better for me here."
The most productive point guard in the history of the Big East Conference, Evans is a two-time all-star there. She was joined on this year's first team by a former Walbrook teammate, St. John's junior center Cozette Ballentine.
A native of West Baltimore, Evans started playing at the John Eager Howard rec center for Charles Robinson. She was part of Towson Catholic's dynasty, helping the Owlettes to their last national mythical championship in 1984-85, when she was a sophomore. She spent the next two years at Walbrook, where she twice made the All-Metro first team and helped guide the Warriorettes to a City-Wide championship in 1987.
Evans, an education major, is going to get some offers to play professionally, but sounds ready to head straight to a classroom.
"I would love to come back to Baltimore to teach and coach," Evans said.