Evans shoots for career in teaching

Ken Rosenthal

May 09, 1991|By Ken Rosenthal

On Saturday night Shanya Evans of Baltimore will be honored along with UNLV's Larry Johnson and East Tennessee State's Keith Jennings at a special Basketball Hall of Fame dinner in Springfield, Mass.

Each will receive an award as one of the nation's top senior collegians, but judging by their career goals, that's about all they have in common.

Johnson and Jennings want to play in the NBA.

Evans wants to teach.

She discovered her calling at Providence College, and she's attacking it with the same energy that helped her compile the second-highest assist total in the history of women's Division I play.

Oh, Evans will have professional options too, but nothing as lucrative as the NBA. She's so anxious to teach, it doesn't matter. A new women's pro league doesn't excite her. Neither does playing overseas.

"I'm really not into chasing a ball around the map," the 5-foot-2 dynamo said -- not when there are kids she can help, kids she can turn around. Shanya Evans looks at it that way. Call her idealistic. Or call her a dream.

"All my life someone guided me, taught me things," said Evans, The Evening Sun Player of the Year at Walbrook in 1986-86. "I really love kids and young adults. They're our future. That's why I want to get into it."

On Saturday she will receive the Francis Pomeroy Naismith Award, presented annually to the top senior under 5-6, as selected by a committee from the Women's Basketball Coaches Association.

Jennings won the men's Naismith for players under 6 feet, Johnson the Joe Lapchick Trophy as the top senior collegian. Evans, however, is the epitome of a student-athlete, an example that the system can work.

"She'll be a wonderful teacher," said her coach, Bob Foley. "She's incredible with kids. She's worked at my camp the past three years. The kids absolutely love her. She's like the Pied Piper out there. They follow her everywhere she goes."

Evans, an education major, said her ultimate goal is to be a principal or superintendent, but added, "I want to get in a classroom first. I've found, from just sitting down and talking to kids, that they want to come to school, have fun learning. We need more of that."

She talks the way she plays -- at a breakneck pace. Foley said she advanced the ball quicker than any point guard in the country, and it wasn't an accident that Providence (26-6) led the nation in scoring this season, earning its third straight NCAA tournament appearance.

The average teacher might say, "Wait until she faces the real world," but Evans already has a fair amount of practical experience, and she remains utterly unfazed. "When I'm around kids, I'm a role model, a sister to them," she said.

In a country starved for quality teachers, who's to tell her no? Evans was a student-teacher at two Providence high schools her senior year. She also stayed at school to assist in a dropout prevention program for 50 junior high school student last summer.

The program lasted six weeks, and Evans was a full-time resident. She helped students improve their reading, taught basic business skills and conducted recreational activities, according to Dr. Francis MacKay, the assistant vice president for student affairs at Providence.

"It's hard to imagine a kid more motivated and more hard-working," MacKay said. "She's the same way off the court as she is on. She gets her mind to do something, blocks out everything and goes at it 100 percent."

So, where does she go from here? Evans is seeking work in Providence and Baltimore, but her preference is clear. "I would definitely like to go back to my roots," she said. "I think that would do so much for the kids."

She talks of teaching social studies at the junior high or high school level. She talks of confronting real-world issues like drugs. She even talks of opening her own recreation center.

"I've got to pass my skills on," joked Evans, who started playing at the John Eager Howard center under Charles Robinson. "I'll probably have to keep running with the kids so I won't get fat."

Who's to tell her no?

"Forget the economy," Foley said, "somebody would be making a major mistake if they didn't hire her, especially in a city school where they need role models. You're not going to find one better."

The Baltimore city public schools hire 200-300 new teachers each year, according to spokesman Doug Nielson. Like Evans, the average teacher is black and female. But Nielson said the system often loses top minority recruits to the private sector.

"Tell her to send a resume," Nielson said.

No doubt, it's in the mail.

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