On The Rise

February 10, 1994|By Jeff Seidel | Jeff Seidel,Special to The Sun

The morning routine of McDonogh guard Donta Evans has not varied the past five summers.

Up before the sun, Evans steps on a basketball court at 6:30 a.m. Pretending to be a variety of NBA players, he hones his basketball skills for the next 2 1/2 hours. He tries to drive like Isiah Thomas, copy the shooting of Joe Dumars and do anything like Mike.

"It was fun," said Evans. "No one was out there but myself . . . in my own little world."

Evans keeps this schedule six days a week over the summer. The hard work helped as the 5-foot-9 player went on to become a four-year starter for No. 19 McDonogh and one of the area's top guards.

Evans was a freshman when Albie Swartz took over as the McDonogh coach. The point guard so impressed Swartz that he immediately started him.

"It was evident to me that he was at least half of a franchise, maybe more," said Swartz. "You build your team around a guard and a big guy, preferably both. I'd never find a guy better than Donta."

Evans said he began coming into his own around the time the workouts started. He had put in plenty of time at Madison Recreation while younger, but often wound up playing behind Gilman's Jimmy Fields and Southern-Baltimore's Damon Cason.

The summer sessions lifted Evans' game to another level.

"That's when I really started to improve," said Evans. "I [started] to get confidence in myself."

Evans averaged six points as a freshman, 10 as sophomore, 18 as a junior and a team-high 19 this season.

Each high school season saw Evans develop into a more complete player. For example, pressure defenses scared him as a freshman. As a senior, he looks forward to them.

Gilman discovered that last Friday in a Maryland Scholastic Association B Conference duel. Gilman tried several times to disrupt the McDonogh offense with different types of defensive pressure.

But Evans single-handedly rendered those presses ineffective. If he wasn't cutting in between a double-team, he was making a sharp pass to set up a fast-break opportunity.

Evans' passing continues to improve. With each season, he has become more effective at feeding his teammates. "I think that's made him the total guard package," said McDonogh forward Bobby Sabelhaus. "He can do everything."

Evans also benefits from his speed. It makes him especially dangerous on defense. Several times against Gilman, he sneaked up on Greyhound players and either stole the ball or forced a loose ball.

"He's a thief," said Sabelhaus.

He's also a leader. As a four-year starter, Evans feels responsible for influencing the team.

"I look forward to it," said Evans. "I feel this is my team. I put the pressure on myself."

Evans has a strong basketball background. His father, Don Sr., played for Southern and Dunbar in the late '60s. Donta's brother, Donnie, started for three years at McDonogh and was part of the

Eagles' B Conference title team. And, his younger brother, Eric, plays for the Lake Clifton junior varsity.

While growing up, Donta Evans did not get much opportunity to play with his older brother. He did, however, find time to play with his father.

Despite being a little older now, Don Sr. still gives his son a hard time. He stands 6-3 and repeatedly posts up his son. And then, he'll shoot that jumper.

"His jumper is like money, anyway," said Donta Evans. "I still can't beat him."

His father taught Donta several valuable lessons about basketball. The elder Evans pushed him to be more aggressive and assertive and taught him a few tricks about steals.

"He controls the ball, and he can control the offense," said Don Sr. "No. 1, however, is his defense and hustle. He likes to hustle and play defense. He loves the challenge."

One thing that is not a challenge for Evans is a layup. The ease in which he makes them amazes his coach.

"He's one of the best layup shooters I've ever seen," said Swartz. "Even around the basket, he's uncanny with balance and his ability to get off a good shot."

Evans hopes to continue his career after this season.

Several colleges of a variety of sizes are looking at Evans, one of 15 class members to be named a Rollins-Luetkemeyer scholar as a class leader. A college career appears a good possibility.

All that early-morning work has paid off.

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