Tyreke Evans fears nothing on a basketball court. It's been his sanctuary almost since he was able to walk.
Now, the 6-foot-6 American Christian basketball star is faced with an undercurrent of reaction to a fatal shooting in Chester, and could have to look over his shoulder every time he walks on the court this season.
Evans, considered by many as the country's best high school prospect, witnessed a homicide that involved his cousin, Jamar "Mar Mar" Evans, who is charged with first-and-third-degree murder in the shooting death of 19-year-old Marcus Reason on Nov. 25. Jamar Evans, 16, turned himself in to Chester Township authorities Saturday.
Tyreke, 18, has cooperated with authorities in the case.
The Evans family has employed an armed bodyguard to shadow Tyreke the remainder of this season, according to sources close to the family. The bodyguard will sit at the end of the American Christian bench during games.
"I do know that there are genuine concerns for Tyreke's safety; the family doesn't know why there were shots fired at Tyreke's vehicle," said Brian McMonagle, the Evans' attorney. "Tyreke is a national high school star, and the real key to this is that the district attorney's office considers him a witness to a crime.
"What gets lost here is that Tyreke has stepped up and he's been placed in the horrible position of speaking up about a relative. It speaks volumes about the character of the kid," McMonagle continued. "There might be nine of 10 kids from Tyreke's environment who might not speak up like Tyreke did, which is really a shame. It makes this kid a target. Every gym he walks into, there is always going to be a concern for his safety."
The incident apparently has not hurt the recruiting of Tyreke, who has listed Louisville, Memphis, Texas, Connecticut and Villanova as his final five.
"No schools have backed away because of this," said Reggie Evans, one of Tyreke's four older brothers. "If anything, we've been given great support from all of the coaches at the schools we're interested in, making sure that Tyreke is all right. This whole situation has placed a lot of stress on our family, and we're all concerned for Tyreke's well-being. What we want is for this thing to go away."
The case will not hurt his chances of possibly winding up at Villanova, according to Reggie. Wildcats coach Jay Wright attended an American Christian home game on Dec. 13.
"We love Jay Wright," Reggie said. "Jay and his staff have been to most if not all of Tyreke's games, even after this thing occurred. I give coach Wright credit, because he knows Tyreke and this family. We're not ruling out Villanova, and we hope Villanova doesn't rule us out. But my biggest concern is that Tyreke doesn't get painted in a bad light, which has already happened in some people's eyes. That's messed up. It's what has me and my whole family angry right now."
The fatal shooting occurred at about 4:45 p.m. on Nov. 25 in Chester's Toby Farms section, according to a police affidavit. Tyreke Evans, Jamar Evans, Rasheen "Ra-Ra" Blackwell and Tyreke's American Christian teammate, Dwayne Davis, had watched the end of the Chicago-Denver NFL game at Tyreke's aunt's home when his mother called his cell to tell him some pies she had baked were ready.
Tyreke Evans, according to the affidavit, got behind the wheel of a gold Ford Expedition with chrome rims and dark-tinted windows. Jamar Evans sat in the front passenger's seat, and Blackwell and Davis sat in back. They were heading to Tyreke Evans' mother's house, when Blackwell and Davis noticed someone with a gun coming from an alley, the affidavit said.
According to Tyreke Evans' account, Blackwell and Davis began yelling, "Go, he's about to shoot."
Tyreke almost drove into a fire hydrant to escape the shooting, family sources said.
"Davis and Blackwell said they saw [Reason] coming out of an alleyway with a handgun and yelled at Tyreke to get moving, because there was going to be shooting," Delaware County Detective Michael Palmer confirmed.
"They said they heard a gunshot fired. Tyreke said he ducked behind the wheel and hit the gas.
"Tyreke went on to say he heard a second shot fired that was louder, but he didn't know where the second shot came from, and he didn't even know Jamar Evans had a gun until he saw him put it in the front pocket of his hoodie jacket. When they got back to his mother's house, they started getting calls from friends telling them that someone was shot."
Palmer said Tyreke Evans originally was suspected of being an accomplice in the shooting.
"We put some pressure on Tyreke and his family to cooperate, and Tyreke isn't a suspect now," Palmer said. "He's being treated as a witness. It was basically one of those things that Tyreke and the people he had in his car were shot at by the victim."
Palmer said he did not think Tyreke knew his cousin had a gun until after the second shot.
Palmer said he thinks Tyreke Evans was caught in a gang war between the Toby Farm Bullz and the Maddi Block. Jamar Evans, who family sources say was pistol-whipped along with his brother coming home from Chester High last year, and Blackwell have criminal pasts and connections with the Maddi Block, according to Palmer.
"Tyreke and his teammate were just in the wrong place at the wrong time," he said. "That's why I really wanted to hear Tyreke's story, which is what I got; my gut feeling was that Tyreke wasn't involved. I was telling my people we can deal with the kid. He'll tell us the story, because it wasn't like we were dealing with a person with a three- or four-page rap sheet."
Palmer dropped off a business card to the Evans family the day after the shooting, and Reggie Evans invited Palmer over to talk about what had happened. Palmer advised the family to get an attorney before going into any detail.
"I'm happy Tyreke's doing the right thing and cooperating, because it's very rare someone in Tyreke's shoes comes forward like this," Palmer said.
But the situation has placed the family on alert.
"That's the way the family has to react," McMonagle said. "He's a target, for good or for bad; he now has to pay a price for doing absolutely nothing wrong." *