CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. — Fans may have heard that James Madison guard Dawn Evans has the best story in college basketball. Here is that story.
In December 2009 Evans was diagnosed with a disease called focal segmental glomerulsclerosis (FSGS). A kidney disease, it disrupted the careers of NBA players Sean Elliott and Alonzo Mourning, both of whom eventually received transplants.
Her kidney function is between 20 and 25 percent. At 15 percent, she might be put on a transplant list.
“I’m too healthy for a transplant right now,” she told Sports Illustrated.
Though her otherworldly statistics would appear to prove otherwise, the FSGS can affect her energy level severely. It is for that reason JMU coach Kenny Evans sometimes holds her out of practice to conserve it. When she does practice, sometimes she only participates in shooting drills.
Despite the FSGS, Evans is playing almost 36 minutes a game and is averaging 23.6 points in those games.
Saturday, OU coach Sherri Coale said the only players she might compare to Evans to is former OSU guard Andrea Riley.
“As complete an offensive player as I’ve seen anywhere all season long,” Coale said of Evans.
Not surprisingly, there were many questions about the matchup between the two point guards: JMU’s Evans and all of her gaudy stats, and OU’s Danielle Robinson, whoo will enter the game averaging 18.4 points and 4.8 assists.
Brooks said he thought his team is underrated defensively, but still he doesn’t know that it’s capable of seriously slowing down Robinson or Aaryn Ellenberg (16.5 ppg). He said he believed the winner would be the team that gets its offense rolling the best.
For her part, Coale said the Sooners wouldn’t do anything special to stop Evans. Instead, they would have to do what they always do really well.
“Everybody has to help, rotate and be aware,” she said. “I just think you have to do it fundamentally together.”
Hand still hurts
The feeling inside Whitney Hand’s twice surgically repaired right knee remains a day-to-day phenomenon.
“It depends on the schedule we have, on the weather we have,” she said. “Some days I wake up and it’s hard to walk. Some days I get up (and I know) it’s going to be a great day.”
Hand said she believes she’s able to leave the pain behind when she must take the court.
“It hurts before and after, mostly,” she said. “During practices and games, I really try to put it out of my head.”
Still, her stats reflect an ongoing struggle to get comfortable on the court. She is shooting 37.2 percent from the field and 29.7 percent from 3-point land.
After receiving their Big Dance invitation, the Sooners said they wanted to bring back their transition game in a strong way for the NCAA tournament. But the real track meet could come with today’s first game between Gardner-Webb and Miami. G-W coach Rick Reeves welcomes such a game.
“We love to run,” he said. “This could be an extremely exciting game for the fans. I think our players are finally thrilled to play a team that likes to run. Most of the teams in our league all try to slow us down.”
G-W averaged just under 64 points per outing this season. Miami averaged just under 80 points per outing.
This is the 12th trip to the NCAA tournament in Sherri Coale’s 15 years as coach of the Sooner program. The Sooners have reached the Sweet 16 in seven of their previous 11 trips under Coale.
This is JMU’s third trip to the NCAA tournament under Brooks. And it is Gardner-Webb’s first trip under Reeves, as well as Miami’s first trip under Katie Meier.
Clay Horning 366-3526 firstname.lastname@example.org