The bright cameras and flickering lightbulbs almost matched the megawatt smile Tyreke Evans wore last night.
The gifted 6-foot-6 American Christian senior shooting guard, considered by many to be the best high school basketball player in the country, was in his element, on a basketball court, free of the scrutiny he's had to face this last week.
Evans has been lugging a situation with him, as a witness to a shooting that occurred Nov. 25, in which 19-year old Marcus Reason was killed. The matter has made the talented hoops star sullen at times, often retreating into the solitude of his room.
That changes once he walks onto a hardwood floor. Evans dropped 30 points to lead the Eagles to a 100-50 victory over Atlantic City High in the Pete Nelson Classic, sponsored by Jameer Nelson, at Widener University's Schwartz Athletic Center.
Evans hit his first five shots, and outscored the Vikings singlehandedly a number of times throughout the game. He also collected four steals, had five assists and blocked four shots.
Playing under the watchful eyes of his older brothers, Reggie, Julius and Eric, Evans was relaxed, almost oblivious to the swirl of attention that surrounded him.
The matter involves 16-year old James "Mar Mar" Evans, Tyreke's cousin, who allegedly shot and killed Reason. Tyreke Evans, who was driving the car with his cousin in it, has not been charged with any crime. Tyreke has cooperated fully with authorities.
The Evans family has been besieged with unwanted media attention, while close friends have maintained that the family would like the situation to deflate.
Moves were made last night in that regard. Immediately after the game, American Christian coach Tony Bergeron refused to let reporters speak to Evans or other members of the team. Evans, a number of his teammates, and Bergeron left by a side door of the lockerroom, avoiding three newspaper reporters.
"You have to understand what this is doing to this family. These people really want to be left alone, and if you look at the whole situation, the kid really didn't do anything," said a source close to the family. "All Tyreke wants to do is play basketball. The family wants to put this as much behind as possible."
There was no heightened security involving the game.
"We've gone through our typical, standard operating procedures," said Pat Sullivan, director of Widener campus security. "We always evaluate situations on a case-by-case basis when we host something here. But we felt no need to take significant added measures. We used the same number of Chester City police as we would any other athletic events we hold here."
Brian McMonagle, the Evans' attorney, told the Daily News on Wednesday that all Tyreke wants to do is play basketball.
"What Tyreke has continued to do is play basketball and will continue to step up and co-operate with authorities, and continue playing basketball," McMonagle said. "That's all really anyone wants."
It wasn't much of a game against Atlantic City. Evans finished the first half with 24 points on 10-of-15 shooting. After 3 quarters the Eagles were up, 71-37.
"This was a good night for Tyreke, it's what he wanted, it's all he wanted," said Reggie Evans, one of Tyreke's older brother. "I really admire what he's done. He has all this business going around him and continues to play great. We're hoping this situation dies down. He just has to keep doing what he's doing, and that's play ball. The rest of this will take care of itself. The most important thing is that Tyreke is happy. And playing ball is what makes him happy." *