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He could be 'next great thing'

American Christian's Tyreke Evans is thought to be an NBA-lottery-pick-in-waiting.

To get to Tyreke Evans (center) you have to go through his circle of friends, which include four of his brothers, a cousin and his personal trainer/coach. "When I need something, my brothers take care of it for me," says Evans.
To get to Tyreke Evans (center) you have to go through his circle of friends, which include four of his brothers, a cousin and his personal trainer/coach. "When I need something, my brothers take care of it for me," says Evans.Read moreJOHN COSTELLO / Inquirer Staff Photographer

Tyreke Evans has made it.

A senior at American Christian Academy in Aston, Pa., Evans is a good friend of LeBron James. Yes, the Cleveland Cavaliers' LeBron James.

The New Jersey Nets' Jason Kidd is one of Evans' summer workout partners.

Evans knows NBA legend Michael Jordan and rap artist Jay-Z.

And it is not uncommon for the Detroit Pistons' Rip Hamilton, a Coatesville, Pa., product, to yell, "What's up, Reke?"

"They look at him like he already made it," James "Reggie" Evans said of his younger brother. "What kid can say that?"

Tyreke Evans is not the normal 18-year-old.

Blessed with an ankle-shattering crossover move and a hypnotizing jump shot, the 6-foot-6 point guard is an NBA-lottery-pick-in-waiting.

"I told everyone he was going to be the next great thing," said Howard Garfinkel, a legendary talent evaluator and cofounder of Five-Star Basketball Camp. "So far, things are looking pretty good."

Garfinkel believes Evans is "one-and-done," meaning he expects Evans to jump to the NBA after a single college season. (Players are no longer permitted to go directly from high school to the NBA.)

"Two years at the most," Garfinkel said. "He has the offensive tools and is a great scorer."

For now, Evans is the nation's top unsigned high school senior. Make that an unassuming senior. Even with his superior skills and famous friends, Evans shuns the extra attention and is prone to shy away from discussions about his talent.

Evans, who remains undecided on his college choice, is a lock to become the first player from Delaware County to play in the McDonald's All-American High School Game.

Slam magazine lists him as the nation's top player in the Class of 2008. So does Dime. Rise rates Evans as the second-best recruit in the class. Hoop Scoop (three), (four) and (six) all have in him the top six.

Dominating foes, Evans began the season by averaging 33.2 points per game. He scored 50 points in a victory over Massanutten Military Academy (Va.) on Nov. 13.

A varsity starter at American Christian since the seventh grade, he entered the season with 2,467 career points. With a 41-game schedule this season, he could push the 4,000-point plateau.

"His jump shot is best weapon, by far," American Christian coach Tony Bergeron said, "When he's on, he can hit it from anyone on he floor."

The youngest of Benita Evans' five sons, it easy to see where Tyreke's shooting touch came from.

His oldest brother, Julius "Doc" Evans, earned the nickname for reminding people at the playground of 76ers legend Julius "Dr. J" Erving.

Eric "Pooh" Evans, 30, was a talented point guard at Chester High and Cheyney State. Reggie Evans was a fixture at pickup games.

"Coming up watching my brothers play a lot of basketball, that's what really made me," Tyreke Evans said. "Ever since then, I just stayed with a basketball in my hand."

At the age of 4, Evans was a fixture at his brothers' pickup games. Standing on the sideline, he would pick up an extra basketball and start spinning it.

"So I'm playing with him one day and I'm like shoot . . . shoot . . . shoot," Reginald said. "He was shooting from like 7 feet from the [basket], making it easy."

James Evans pushed Tyreke back a few steps. It didn't matter. Tyreke kept making baskets. Soon, Tyreke was making foul shots.

That is when Reginald realized his brother had a special talent. He coached Tyreke in Chester's Biddy basketball league, even though Tyreke was actually too young to play.

A league legend, Evans enjoyed playing for his brother.

Practice was different. Reggie would have Tyreke in the gym long after his teammates left. He would duct-tape one of his 5-year-old brother's arms to his body. Then he would make him practice dribbling with the free arm. Then they would do the same thing with the other arm.

"This was the ritual from ages 5, 6 and 7," Reggie said.

By the time Tyreke turned 7, he looked forward to the one-on-one dribbling drills.

"I didn't mind doing them when I knew it was important to keep doing the same workouts over and over again," he said.

Those workouts eventually led to a full scholarship to American Christian - in the seventh grade.

It did not take long to realize Evans would become an elite player. He scored 27 points - as a seventh-grader - against a Blair Academy (N.J.) team that showcased Luol Deng. Deng went on to Duke and now plays small forward for the Chicago Bulls.

By the time Evans reached the ninth grade, he was regarded as the top player in the country in the Class of 2008.

With the lofty status came relationships with the celebrities.

Evans met Kidd two summers ago when the future Hall of Fame point guard coached an all-American game. He met LeBron James when James was a prep standout in Ohio.

Those relationships are something Evans tries to downplay.

"I just look at it like he was one of my friends," Evans said of James.

"I looked at it like I've known him for a long time. . . . But I like hanging around him. He's a pretty good guy."

A circle of friends protects this rising star

It is 5:30 p.m. and a reporter walks into Tri-State Sports for a prearranged meeting with James "Reggie" Evans.

Sitting on the second row of the bleachers, Evans motions to the reporter, whom he had never met before, signaling for him to take a seat next to him.

Said reporter is a bit anxious. The meeting will go a long way in determining the access - interviews and the such - to one of the nation's elite high school basketball players.

Evans is an older brother - and legal guardian - to American Christian Academy point guard Tyreke "Reke" Evans.

Screening media members, recruiting analysts, and college head coaches is nothing new to the man known as Reggie. In fact, that is the way the Evans family prefers it.

With their father having died and their mother up in age, Reggie is the family spokesman. He has the final say in The Circle, a group of six men that serve as Tyreke's protectors and confidants. All roads to the basketball phenom go through them.

"God forbid that anything happens to Reke," Reggie said. "No one would care if he got into a car accident but us. No one would be by his side but us."

The Circle consists of Tyreke's four older brothers, a cousin and his personal trainer/assistant coach. Like Tyreke and Reggie, all have nicknames.

Julius "Doc" Evans, 36; Eric "Pooh" Evans, 30; and Dion "Dahz" Evans, 26; are the brothers. Temetrius "Meek" Evans, 34, is the cousin. Lamont "L" Peterson, is the assistant coach/personal trainer.

"It is important for us to do that, for the reason he is what he is," Julius Evans said. "A lot of people hear different stories. But the real story is that we've always been a close family."

A close family that was taught to take care of its siblings.

From the time Tyreke was born, the Evans brothers began monitoring his actions.

Peterson did the same thing shortly after being introduced to the group three seasons ago by a mutual friend.

Tyreke is not complaining.

"This makes me feel real comfortable," he said of having The Circle. "I don't have to worry about anything. . . . When I need something, my brothers take care of it for me."

That is an understatement.

All six members of The Circle play a major role in Tyreke's life.

A street-ball legend in Chester, Pa., Julius stays in the gym with Tyreke, working on his shot.

Eric, a former point guard at Chester High and Cheyney State, puts Tyreke through ballhandling drills. Temetrius is a supportive influence. Lamont makes sure he is well-conditioned.

"He makes sure that he doesn't act too crazy, like coming in too late," Reggie said.

As his legal guardian, Reggie is Tyreke's provider and, ultimately, has the final say on all decisions.

With Tyreke charting a course to the NBA, The Circle's motives have been questioned by outsiders.

"You hear your brothers are there to get money off of you," Reggie said. "You hear that they are there to scam the system. . . . You hear that we got inside deals going on."

Reggie said he has heard rumors his brother has a Nike endorsement deal locked up.

"That right there, that's lies that have been said about us," Reggie said.

Folks close to the situation believe The Circle is unfairly depicted. They believe that it played a major role in Tyreke's success.

"In today's sports world, you have to have that," said Ted Tourlitis, who is Tyreke's chiropractor. "On television, you hear about athletes who go astray. They don't have positive reinforcements. Family is what you need in sports today."

The Tyreke Evans File



Position: Point guard


American Christian Academy, Delaware Co. (Pa.)


Undecided. He is considering Villanova, Memphis, Louisville, Texas and Connecticut.

National rankings:

Slam magazine lists Evans as the nation's top-ranked player in the Class of 2008. Rise rates Evans as the second-best recruit in the class. Hoop Scoop (three), (four) and (six) all have him in the top six.