Oct. 15, 2013
By JACK BOGACZYK
HUNTINGTON, W.Va. – Kiana Evans can live a Dorothy Gale existence in Marshall women’s basketball:
There’s no place like home … there’s no place like home.
Evans grew up about a 5-minute drive from Cam Henderson Center. The Thundering Herd freshman, a two-time Class AAA All-State first team pick at Huntington High, is just one face among Marshall second-year coach Matt Daniel’s designs to bring a regional foundation to his program.
Daniel has two HHS grads – Evans and Cincinnati transfer Talequia Hamilton, who is sitting out this season – and Princeton freshman McKenzie Akers on the squad. He has four commitments from in-state or the Tri-State, too.
“Having all those girls at Marshall, it’s going to feel good,” the 6-foot Evans said. “It’s going to be good where you can maybe make your own team from locals or people with ties here.”
Evans, who will make her debut in a Herd uniform at the Green & White night of drills and scrimmages on Thursday at 5:30 p.m. at the Henderson Center, has a family connection in Herd hoops.
Her cousin, former Huntington East star Winnetta Evans, was a two-year MU starter who finished her career in 1995-96.
“So, yeah, I’d come to watch her, and I was a Marshall fan then,” Evans said.
So, what’s it like going from Huntington to … well, Huntington?
“Honestly, living under the (20th Street) viaduct is totally different from living on campus,” said Evans, whose family lives on 28th Street. “It’s just different, for school-wise, going to school, playing basketball for Huntington High, going to Marshall, playing basketball here, it’s really two different things.
“But yes, it can be comforting. If I ever feel like I need anything, I’m just right here. I don’t have to wait until Christmas. I could go home every day if I want to, if I needed something, if I needed comfort from my family, or encouragement. I know that.”
Evans, one of 10 new faces on the Marshall roster, “is going to be a huge asset for us,” Daniel said. “While she continues to adjust to this level of play, I believe there is no ceiling to how good she can be.”
Evans said that being part of a large influx of new talent – the Herd has six returnees – can be a plus … or a minus. Most of the team is on the same learning curve in Daniel’s uptempo system.
“It’s kind of the same,” Evans said when asked whether it’s an advantage to be part of a large group getting an introduction to major college hoops. “It makes it easier for me because I’m not the only one confused, but then again, if I need help, they’re just as confused as I am.
“It can be a good or a bad thing, depending on the situation. But we’re all learning and we all want to be part of this, so that helps.”
Evans, who averaged 22 points and six rebounds per game for the Highlanders last season, committed to Daniel in August 2012, just prior to her senior year. She quickly grew into the game she now loves.
“When I was younger, I didn’t play basketball,” Evans said. “I cheered for midget league. It was no big deal really. I didn’t start playing until I was in seventh or eighth grade.
“I started coming to games last year when Coach Daniel started recruiting me. It was like, ‘This all can be real for me.’ I felt like I could do this, too. At that point, I couldn’t wait to get here and be on the floor for Marshall.”
Evans said she also considered Mount St. Mary’s and Kentucky Wesleyan, but she had just started talking to schools before Daniel – who came to Marshall in late May – made a scholarship offer to the Herd’s hometown star. In Daniel’s system, Evans mostly plays the 2 or 3 spots.
“It is different, college basketball,” Evans said. “Because in good high school basketball, there are only one or two (players) at most who are good, and you have a good system. But when you come to college, everybody is just as good as you, and you’re all competing, within the team, and it’s just harder.
“The girls are stronger and they know the game, and they have experience. In high school, you’re just playing against a lot of girls who just want to play for fun, they don’t take it as seriously, they don’t want to go play at the next level.
“We’ve always had talent around here, and it feels good it for us to finally have a place at Marshall.”