College basketball star Tyrone Lewis knows about gang violence and the dangers that accompany it.
A potential target in a gang-related incident in 2006 while he was in high school, Lewis has some advice for Tyreke Evans, the American Christian high school star immersed in his own gang-related drama.
"I can tell him, 'Don't be ashamed,' " Lewis, a sophomore guard at Niagara University in New York, said of Evans' cooperating with the Chester Township police investigation. "As far as the gangs, watch who you hang out with."
Lewis, who was forced to miss his high school graduation because of gang-related death threats, also advised Evans to ignore the idea that snitching on family or friends involved in crimes is wrong.
"If he just stays positive and doesn't worry about that situation, he'll be fine," Lewis said. "My best advice I can tell him as far as family members [blaming Evans], you are supposed to trust and feel safe around them."
Evans, a 6-foot-6 phenomenon at American Christian, has an issue with his cousin. Evans was at the scene of a homicide that allegedly involved Jamar "Mar Mar" Evans on Nov. 25 in Chester Township, Delaware County.
Police charged Jamar Evans, 16, with first- and third-degree murder in the shooting death of 19-year-old Marcus Reason.
Jamar Evans turned himself in to Chester Township authorities on Saturday. Tyreke Evans, who drove his cousin from the scene in his Ford Expedition, has cooperated with the police.
The basketball star, under direction from his lawyer, Brian McMonagle, is not commenting on the matter.
Lewis' situation, although also viewed by police as a gang-related incident, was far different from the one in which Evans finds himself.
Lewis' older sister, Rachael, was charged in connection with a shooting in 2005 in which a Bristol Township resident was killed while standing on a street corner. She and several alleged members of a Trenton gang were arrested.
In September 2006, Rachael Lewis and five others were convicted of lesser charges after testifying against the accused shooter.
As Rachael Lewis awaited trial, police cited "credible threats" that targeted Tyrone Lewis and his family.
So, in a move that received national attention, Lewis, the senior class president at Harry S Truman in Levittown, did not attend his graduation ceremony but instead delivered his speech by a video feed from another location.
"I feel a lot safer," Lewis said of life at Niagara. "You come to a school that nobody knows you, nobody knows my situation."
Of course, he added, Evans' situation is a bit different.
"He's one of the nation's top players," Lewis said.
Evans will be known wherever he plays next. He's narrowed his choices to Connecticut, Louisville, Memphis, Texas and Villanova.
Snitching is an issue for many basketball players, even in the NBA.
In 2004, Denver Nuggets star Carmelo Anthony was featured in an underground DVD called
that circulated in his hometown of Baltimore. In it, he appeared with a confessed drug dealer.
The DVD showed alleged drug dealers talking about how they deal violently with people who cooperate with the police.
Later, Anthony said that his appearance in the DVD was a joke, that his old friends from the neighborhood made it, and that he did not condone violence to those who cooperate with police.
But the incident triggered a national debate, and law enforcement officials have waged a counteroffensive to convince people that telling on criminals is the only way to combat crime.
As for Evans, his older brother and legal guardian, Reggie, said yesterday that Tyreke was not leaving Chester out of fear.
"My brother has been born here," Reggie Evans said. "He is going to stay here. He isn't somebody who is a gang banger. . . . He didn't do anything."
Still, the Evans family, Widener University officials, and organizers of the fourth annual Pete Nelson Classic at the university in Chester City were not taking any chances Thursday and last night.
They provided Evans with protection as he and his American Christian teammates played in the tournament.
Accompanied by a police escort last night, the team entered Widener's Schwartz Center through a side door to avoid potential danger.
The players went straight to a locker room guarded by a Widener security officer. Family members and friends took up the first two rows behind the Eagles, and there were official and unofficial bodyguards at the end of the bench. Others providing protection were sprinkled among the crowd.
Evans can expect more of the same tonight, when American Christian plays Apex Academy (N.J.) Blue at 7:45 in a Sneaker-Villa-Christmas Classic game at Ben Franklin High.
Scholastic Play-By-Play Classics promoter Jeremy Treatman, who organized both events, said Ben Franklin would have security similar to Widener's.