Originally posted on www.nwitimes.com by Steve Hanlon
GARY | Dana Evans, in one way, is your typical high school freshman. A little shy. Probably got lost trying to find the algebra classroom after leaving the history classroom. Traditional stuff.
The 5-foot-5 ninth-grader probably had to ask a senior what is better at the end of lunch, the peach strudel or the chocolate mousse.
This, though, is where the story strides off the common course.
Geno Auriemma knows her name.
Muffet McGraw knows who she is, too.
Without yet playing a single second of high school basketball, Evans has already been offered scholarships by Purdue, Michigan State and Cincinnati.
The long line outside the Cougars' gymnasium isn't just football light electricians, it's other college coaches trying to take a peek at this immense talent.
It's amazing what averaging 40 points a game as an eighth grader will do for your stock.
"I love Jordans," Evans said during the first week of practice. "The shoes."
Clothes and footwear, that is typical of a young teenage girl. Again, though, this story is much different than the norm.
When Evans was in fifth grade, she received her first college letter; it came from Valparaiso University. There's a storage shed now full of such letters. Cincinnati gave her an offer when she was still in eighth grade, while most girls were trying to find a copy of "The Hunger Games."
Evans has unbelievable quickness and a first step that only God can give. Her basketball IQ is off the charts. Starting to play a game about eight seconds after you start to walk can give you a head start.
"I just love to play defense," Evans said. "I get a lot of steals and a lot of layups."
Her father, Damon Evans, was a standout at Wirt. Her mother, Shwanda Mitchell, did the same at Bloom Trail in Illinois. The two met at South Suburban College. This concept of creating a hoops superstar started early.
She was involved in ballet and track. Coordination, balance and mental discipline was enhanced in these ventures. But make no mistake, dribbling an orange ball in a packed gym was always at the top.
"I love basketball," Evans said. "I always have."
West Side coach Rod Fisher knows, without question, he has something special in Evans. He's coached this game for 37 years in Indiana and he knows this is surely his top prospect in all that time.
But if you know Fisher you know he won't say such a thing. Ever.
"She's done a lot of things, sure," Fisher said. "But AAU basketball is a lot different than high school which is team basketball. I think she'll be OK. Look at all the freshman who've come up here (Gary) or East Chicago through the years and never lived up to the hype.
"We have to keep her working hard so she can live up to that."
Fisher's roster is full of great perimeter talent. Really, it's plain sick. He has Amari Ferguson, Evans, DeJah Joshua and Jerrica Neal. These young ladies are very good, just like their team.
Getting to the state championship game is their goal, like every team at the dawn of this season.
"If these girls can keep their head on straight and work together, we can get to Terre Haute," Fisher said. "They will be the ones who take us."
This, again, is where the story shifts. It's proof of how special Evans will be.
"I want to win three state championships," Evans said. "That is my goal."
This is going to be a great girls basketball season, I feel it. In many different neighborhoods and classes, the stories will unfold. Evans is one of many. But hers is Chapter 1.
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