Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Evans' slow burn

The recruitment of guard Tyree Evans has not exactly been smooth sailing and this past week there were more than a few white caps that Gary Williams had to handle. The first rouge wave came in the form of an article written on SI.com by Luke Winn. You can read the article here. There isn't much new in the article that most Maryland fans don't already know about Evans. He has a troubled past and seems to have a knack for being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Why the fact that Maryland had brought in Evans was worthy of a national news story is a question worth asking.

I am ambivalent about Evans myself. He seems to be a very talent basketball player who has failed to show maturity and good judgment repeatedly in his recent past. I would prefer that Maryland not take that kind of gamble but it is clear that the pressure is being felt by the coaching staff to turn the slide of the basketball program around. I doubt anyone would give Williams a pass if he was still going to the NIT with a team full of exemplary students and citizens. The reality is that if Maryland keeps missing the NCAA Tournament Williams will eventually lose his job no matter how many nice kids like Eric Hayes are on the team. It is a false premise to suggest that you need a few talent but thuggish players on your team. The "Memphis model" doesn't guarantee success as neither Bob Huggins nor John Calipari have won a national title. It is clear that in the balance between character and talent that talent is going to largely dominate the equation.

Gary Williams has been fairly good at accessing risks throughout his coaching career. When he took players that others were skeptical about he has usually been vindicated in the end. I'm willing to defer to his judgment on the issue because if Evans turns out to be a disaster Williams will be the one dealing with the fall out. It was disappointing but not surprising that Debbie Yow couldn't help herself and had to give statements to the media that amounted to little more than a declaration that this was Williams decision and she had little to do with it. Her petty and bureaucratic evasions just served to fan the flames of a story that wasn't all that juicy to begin with. An athletic director trying to dodge responsibility for a questionable recruit coming to campus is more intriguing. If she is as smart as her supporters contend then I would have to conclude that her poorly chosen comments were her latest attempt to score political points in her ongoing power struggle with Gary Williams. The interests of the University of Maryland, which should be her overriding concern, were not served by her clumsy and ill-advised equivocations in the media.

It is notable that Maryland has never had a player with these kinds of indiscretions since Gary Williams has been in College Park. I would hope this isn't some kind of trend and I don't expect that it will become one. A recruit with the background of Evans wouldn't even elicit a sniff of media attention if he was playing football for Miami, Florida State or Virginia Tech. Caron Butler had a longer rap sheet before he played at UConn and even Duke's Sheldon Williams was embroiled in a shady incident that involved allegations of sexual assault while he was still in high school. Maybe the Cameron Crazies should keep that in mind when they are putting together their cheer sheet next season. None of that is an excuse for any negative consequences that result from Evans coming to Maryland. My guess is that if he steps out of line the consequences will be immediate and harsh for Evans, as they should be.

It is also worth considering that it isn't always the questionable characters that end up embarrassing your program or institution. Players like Chris McCray and Travis Garrison were supposed to be solid citizens but both embarrassed Maryland in their senior season by running afoul of the law. All coaches hope that players build maturity and character in their time at college and if Evans is able to do that and turn his life around it will be a credit to him and to the coach who decided to give him the chance to prove himself. For Maryland's administration to turn its back on Evans due to some howling by the press would be nothing short of cowardice. They need to commit to giving Evans all the support and counsel that he will require. Oddly, dumping Evans would now be the desperate move while standing by him and committing to his success at College Park would show courage.

No comments: