The first real spotlight shined down on Angel McCoughtry. Then, Jeff Walz was hired as Louisville’s head coach and began the process of taking the University of Louisville Women’s Basketball program to heights never seen or dreamed of before. Years later, a player named Asia Durr would put on the Cardinals jersey and personify greatness in numerous ways. And last night, Dana Evans played her last game in the Yum Center as a Louisville Cardinal. This chain of events is the historical backbone to a women’s basketball program that is no longer just one of the best, but instead elite.
Make no bones about it, Evans, who is not only a favorite to win her second consecutive ACC Player of the Year Award this season but also a viable candidate to be the National Player of the Year, has cemented her place in the hearts of Louisville Women’s Basketball fans and in the UofL history books. But in addition, Evans, dare I say, has produced a career worthy of placing her on the UofL Women’s Hoops Mount Rushmore.
One may disagree. If so, that’s your choice, however I’d ask you to consider the following stats and honors before doubling down on your take…..
• Evans is averaging 20.8 ppg this season and is now 64-68 from the foul line (94.1%)
• Evans is now #15 on the all-time scoring list with 1,345 points and will likely climb another 4/5 spots
• Evans is one of only 3 UofL players to be named a WBCA All-American (McCoughtry/Durr)
• Despite not being able to play in the 2020 NCAA Tourney, averaged 18.0 ppg as a junior
• Only player in ACC history to win the ACC 6th Player of Year Award followed by being ACC POY
• Will likely finish her career, at worst, 5th all-time in assists
• Team Captain for the first team in UofL history to be ranked #1 in the nation
• Has the greatest eye lashes in the history of women’s basketball at any level
If you are a naysayer or doubter, have you seen enough? There are more stats and honors that could be used in support of Evans, but the bottom line is that she has been nothing short of terrific in the latter part of her Cardinal career. In fact, one doesn’t need to look at the history books to see Evans’ terrific ability and leadership. Rather, all one has to do is watch her play for 40 minutes.
This 2020-21 UofL team is loaded with talent, as many of Jeff Walz’s teams have been for the better of 14 years. It features a strong front court with length and size. It has depth. It has experience and players who aren’t afraid to lay it on the line. But most importantly, this team has Evans. As she goes, the Cardinals go.
Need a three pointer to push a single-digit lead to double figures? Dana Evans
Need a steal in the backcourt that helps lead to an easy bucket? Dana Evans
Need someone to make a play when the offense has gone stagnant? Dana Evans
Need a player at the foul line late in the game to ice off a win? You got it, Dana Evans
So, with the current regular season slate quickly coming to a close, Evans and her teammates are primed for big things in March. Because of the onset of the COVID pandemic last March, Evans was obvioysly unable to lead her team and showcase her talents in the NCAA Tournament – a tournament that the Cards had a fighting chance to make some serious noise in. And while there are still some undeniably tough games left to play before this year’s Big Dance (4 straight road games to close out the regular season and the ACC Tournament), the Cards are again likely to enter the NCAA Tournament as one of the favorites to cut down the nets in San Antonio.
Winning a National Championship would be a storybook ending to this challenging and unique season for Coach Jeff Walz, his program and particularly Evans. In no way does it diminish the individual greatness, their careers or their achievements, but neither McCoughtry or Durr despite both playing in a Final Four were able to bring the city of Louisville a national title (Myisha Hines-Allen was fouled dammit). Evans with the aide of her supporting cast could set herself apart by doing so.
So as Evans’ career does hit its home stretch, my hope is that all UofL fans won’t take her for granted and will tune in when we can to see if she and her squad can make history. Players like Evans certainly don’t grow on trees or come around often. Her ride at Louisville, despite being bumpy in her early years, has been fun to watch. With her at the helm and the ball in her hands, good things are bound to happen.