Tyreke Evans had just been measured and weighed during last month's NBA draft combine in Chicago. When the Chester native arrived at an interview session, someone remarked that Evans seemed to be getting taller.
"No, I'm getting shorter," laughed Evans, who was listed at 6-foot-6 as a freshman at Memphis last season. "They had me at 6-51/4."
Curiously, the "anthropometric results" sheet the league provided at the combine included players' heights with and without shoes on, when only the former is pertinent. Evans, whose wingspan of 6-111/4 was the largest among the backcourt players, was only 6-4 without his shoes on.
But the only thing that matters is that he is a combo guard with size who is expected to be a lottery pick in Thursday's NBA draft.
"Right now, we are getting positive feedback," said Reggie Evans, Tyreke's older brother and legal guardian. "He can go anywhere from second to eighth right row."
Memphis has the second pick. Oklahoma City is slated for third. Sacramento will go fourth, followed by Washington, Minnesota, Golden State and the New York Knicks.
That prediction was also made by none other than LeBron James, the NBA's most valuable player who talked Evans up when the Cleveland Cavaliers were in town in April to face the 76ers. And Evans' agent, Philadelphia–area native Arn Tellem, has no doubts about his client's immediate future.
"He's going to go very high in the first round," said Tellem, a Haverford College grad who also represents two other likely first-rounders in former Episcopal Academy teammates Gerald Henderson and Wayne Ellington. "I hate to predict what number. But he will go very high. He's drawn interest from all of the teams at the top of the draft."
President Obama was recently invited to the Palms Casino and Hotel in Las Vegas, which is run by Sacramento Kings co-owners Gavin and Joe Maloof. While there, Obama told their brother, Phil, whom the Kings should draft.
The President "liked Blake Griffin, of course, [Hasheem] Thabeet from Connecticut, and he loved the kid from Memphis - Tyreke Evans," Palms co-owner George Maloof told the Las Vegas Review-Journal.
Now that he is on the brink of realizing the dream of many a young basketball player, Evans is near the end of a journey that was briefly disrupted by a shooting incident in his hometown. He was driving the vehicle from which his cousin, Jamar Evans, shot and killed a man in November 2007.
After a police investigation, Tyreke Evans was not charged. In January, 17-year-old Jamar Evans pleaded guilty to third-degree murder and firearm charges.
Evans was asked to recall his mind-set in the days after the shooting.
"I wasn't worried about myself," he said. "I was worried about my cousin. He was young, and he was somewhere he shouldn't have been. Once I got back to playing ball again, that took it off my mind."
Following his senior season at American Christian Academy - he averaged 32.1 points, 8.8 rebounds, 5.7 assists and 4.3 steals - Evans chose Memphis after giving Villanova strong consideration. He said he probably would have tried to make the jump to the NBA had the league not changed its rule and required a player to be at least one year removed from high school to enter the draft.
"Yeah, I think so," Evans said. "I got bored with high school competition."
Did he consider going to Europe, as point guard Brandon Jennings did after completing his high school career in Los Angeles, and accepting a $1.2 million deal to play in Italy?
"No," he said. "Brandon is a good friend of mine, and I talk to him. If he had it to do all over, he would have gone to school. He said it's crazy over there. I was just excited to be going to college."
In his only season at Memphis, Evans led the Tigers with 17.1 points per game and also averaged 5.4 rebounds, 3.8 assists and 2.8 steals for a team that went 33-4. It was after Memphis was upset by Missouri in the NCAA Sweet 16 that Evans sat down with coach John Calipari to discuss whether the player should leave school.
Calipari would soon move from Memphis to Kentucky.
"He told me he was getting calls, and that I was going to be a lottery pick," Evans said. "I've heard a lot of good words about me maybe going in the top five."
One question concerning Evans is whether he's better suited to play point guard or shooting guard in the pros. At Memphis, he started out at shooting guard before being switched to the point early in the season.
"I'm think I'm a better player with the ball in my hands, but I really haven't thought about it," said Evans, who requested the position change at Memphis. "But playing the point at Memphis, I just felt comfortable."
Rod Strickland was an NBA player for 17 years and was an assistant at Memphis last season. (He also went with Calipari to Kentucky.)
"I think he will do great," said Strickland, who averaged 13.2 points and 7 assists during his NBA career. "Number one, because he is motivated to be great. And he works harder that anyone. He will do whatever he has to do.
"He will become a better shooter. Other than that, he knows how to make plays. He is all over the court."
At the May 28-29 combine, Evans was interviewed by at least 10 teams. His first post-combine workout was on June 9 for the Sacramento Kings, who own the No. 4 pick in the draft. On June 12, he put his skills on display for the Washington Wizards, who are in the fifth spot. Visits to Memphis (second), New York (eighth), Minnesota (sixth) and Oklahoma City (third) followed.
Fellow Chester native Jameer Nelson, who played in the NBA Finals last week with the Orlando Magic, said Evans will do well in the league.
"He has good people around him. I know he is a hard worker," Nelson said. "Going into your rookie year, you don't know what to expect. But I know one thing about him: He can shoot the ball."
"Tyreke's value to teams is going to be very high," Tellem said. "He's a basketball player who is not defined by position. He's one of the unique players in this year's draft."