Reggie Evans is responsible for a few “lasts” for the Iowa Hawkeyes basketball team. He is currently the last former Hawkeye still playing in the NBA. Evans was also a key member of the last Iowa team to win an NCAA Tournament game, against Creighton in 2001, and he played in front of the last Carver-Hawkeye Arena crowd to average a sellout for the season. The scrappy rebounder known more in mainstream basketball circles for violently grabbing Chris Kaman’s testicular region in a rebounding battle just agreed to a one-year, $1.3 million deal with the Los Angeles Clippers this week.
Evans was a certified stud at Iowa despite the wildly inconsistent extremes the team played to during his tenure. He transferred from Coffeyville Community College and played at Iowa for two seasons, from 2000-02. He famously paired with Luke Recker, a highly-regarded transfer from Indiana, to form one of the most hyped teams in recent Iowa history. That 2000-01 squad played in front of a Carver crowd that averaged 15,500 fans per game, yet the team never really gelled and finished the regular season just a few games over .500. However, Evans, Recker, and senior point guard Dean Oliver led the Hawkeyes to a Big Ten Tournament title, winning an unprecedented four games in four days, and that first round victory over Creighton. Evans was named the B10 Tournament MVP, led the conference in rebounding, and was an honorable mention All-American. The taste of NCAA success was thought to be a small peek at the future riches to come under then-coach Steve Alford, but it turned out to be the only NCAA Tournament win Iowa would have for the next decade. Evans and Recker returned to Iowa for their senior seasons, but the team failed to make the NCAAs despite reaching the Big Ten Tournament title game for the second straight year. Evans would lead the Big Ten in rebounding again, and finish as a second team All-Conference selection.
Although Evans went undrafted in the 2002 draft, he has forged a successful 10-year NBA career due to being incredibly good at a single skill — rebounding. He has never wielded an effective offensive repertoire, and is more hack than lockdown defender. But according to ESPN, Evans rebounded a quarter of all shots missed when in the game during the 2005 season, when he played for the Seattle SuperSonics. He led the league in rebound rate for two years in a row (2005-06), grabbing more boards than anyone else relative to the minutes he played. With the Denver Nuggets, Evans became the first player since Dennis Rodman to nab 20 boards and zero points. And in Philadelphia with the 76ers during the 2007-08 season, Evans started at power forward, raising his team from dead last in rebounding to a top-15 ranking, and drained a key jumper to help Philly beat the Detroit Pistons in Game 3 of playoff series at home as the crowd chanted his name. By all means, Evans is the quintessential role player, and his rebounding skills keep earning the desiring eyes of teams in need of rebounding help no matter how much older the 31-year-old gets. Although he still has to pass his physical, all signs point to Evans, who is battling a foot injury, signing the $1.3 million deal with the Clippers. L.A.’s “other” team is a legitimate championship contender due to the recent acquisition of Chris Paul, young phenomenon Blake Griffin, and athletic center DeAndre Jordan.
The fact that Evans is the only former Hawkeye in the NBA speaks volumes about the success of the Iowa basketball program recently. In the late 1980s and early-to-mid-90s, Iowa always put a healthy number of stars into the Association, including Chicago Bulls championship point guard B.J. Armstrong and key Boston Celtics swingman Kevin Gamble. They were also in the NCAA Tournament nearly every year during that stretch. Recent Hawkeye coaches Alford and Todd Lickliter, who made March Madness just three times in over 10 years combined, just haven’t recruited the talent necessary to compete at the collegiate level, let alone at the next level. Adam Haluska was drafted in the second round of the 2007 draft by the New Orleans Hornets but didn’t make the team. Ryan Bowen, who played for Tom Davis and was a second round selection in 1998, found his niche as a hustling role player for a decade in the NBA. He worked as an administrative assistant on Fran McCaffery’s staff for the 2010-11 season and portions of this season, but left to become an assistant for the Nuggets. And Ricky Davis, he of the infamous self-made triple-double, carved a successful NBA career out of his insane athleticism and ability to score despite numerous anecdotes about his wild off-court lifestyle. Davis rarely played for winning teams, but statistically he is one of the more productive NBA Hawkeye alums of all time. He was also the only “one-and-done” Hawkeye ever to play for the program.
As for the current squad’s NBA prospects? Not promising to end the five-year drought at the moment, but keep an eye on the development of power forward Melsahn Basabe. He is undersized and still raw in his skills, but Basabe has great athleticism, active hands, and a budding mid-range jumper, not to mention confidence that leaps out of the building. He may be the lone hope on this current team to make it to the NBA.