Earlier this month, Louisville guard Dana Evans was named the ACC Player of the Year for the second straight season, a First Team All-American and a finalist for the Naismith Award. Soon she'll try to lead the Cardinals -- a No. 2 seed -- to their first NCAA national championship.
Whenever that run comes to an end, the next step will be the 2021 WNBA Draft, where Evans is projected to be taken in the first round, and possibly even the lottery if things go her way. Ahead of the draft, which is set for April 15, here's a closer look at one of this year's best backcourt prospects.
Evans was the leading scorer in the ACC this season, and not just among women. She put up more points per game than anyone on the men's side either, and you don't reach those sorts of levels without being able to score in numerous ways. But for all of Evans' skills, it's her outside shooting that sets her apart.
Consider that this season she shot 35.3 percent from downtown -- a very solid mark -- and it was by far her worst shooting performance since she was a freshman and didn't play very much. If you throw out her five-game cold streak to end the season, her percentage rises to 39.8, which is just in line with her sophomore (38.5) and junior (43.1) campaigns.
The point is, Evans can really shoot the ball. She's capable off of the dribble -- 32 percent -- and if she's able to improve in this area it will really raise her ceiling. But for now, she's more comfortable when she can get her feet set. Either in catch-and-shoot situations or coming off a screen.
Even more impressive, she's shown off a deep range that not only gives her space to get a clean look over the defense, but opens up more driving lanes if defenders come out to guard her that far away from the hoop.
Menace in transition
In terms of physical qualities, Evans' speed and quickness stand out the most. She's one of the fastest players from end-to-end in college basketball and has a first step to match. Unsurprisingly, this makes her a menace on the break.
Nearly a quarter of Evans' offensive possessions came in transition, and she shot 53.3 percent and scored 1.118 points per possession, per Synergy Sports. Among the players with at least as many transition possessions as Evans (127) only six were more efficient.
Watch here against DePaul. You can really see her speed on display as she zooms past multiple defenders and actually even outruns her own teammate, which makes the fastbreak end up being a little awkward.
She's fast with the ball too. In this clip against Boston College, she outraces multiple defenders while dribbling.
Not afraid of the moment
Evans made 190 field goals this season, and 26 of them -- just over 13 percent -- came in the final five minutes of the fourth quarter. And that doesn't even count the free throws she made in those situations. Obviously, not all of those points came in super close games, but many of them did.
- In a five-point win over Notre Dame, she scored Louisville's final five points, including a clutch 3-pointer with less than a minute to play.
- In a three-point win over Miami, she scored Louisville's last 12 points.
- In a two-point win over Wake Forest, she scored 10 of Louisville's last 16 points, including a game-winning and-one with less than 10 seconds left.
- In a four-point win over Virginia Tech, she scored four of Louisville's last six points, including the game-winning basket with just over 20 seconds left.
Finishing in traffic
Evans is a terrific scorer and is often able to get past her initial defender and into the lane without too much trouble. However, most of her finishes around the basket were of the uncontested variety -- either in transition or because no help arrived.
Now, obviously, it's not a criticism when a player is able to get easy looks at the rim. However, when Evans is met with resistance, that's when she can have some trouble. At 5-foot-6 she just doesn't have the ability to go over or through defenders on a regular basis.
As a result, her attempts to finish in traffic often resulted in somewhat wild and off-balance attempts.
This is probably the area you'd be most concerned about heading into the WNBA, as defenders are only going to be bigger, faster and smarter.
Dealing with screens
Despite her size, Evans is actually a pretty solid defender. Louisville often picked up full court, and Evans is willing and able to apply pressure to an opposing team's ball handler all game long. There are plenty of examples of her picking someone's pocket near midcourt and coasting in for a layup. Still, she does run into some issues on that end of the floor. In particular, she's not always great at dealing with screens, which isn't all that surprising.
One issue is that when she gets wiped out by a ball screen, she doesn't always get back into the play. Watch here against Wake Forest, as she gets screened, then is too late sinking down to help and the Demon Deacons get an easy layup.
A more prevalent problem, though, is that she can get lost off the ball. During the second quarter of this game at Florida State, Evans ball watches for a little bit too long while the player she's guarding flares out to the wing for a 3. Evans recognizes it late, gets caught up on the screen and gives up a wide-open shot.
It was a similar story against NC State. Her opponent gives the ball up, then cuts weakside off the flare screen. Evans turns her head and loses track of where she went. At that point, it's all over. While Evans makes a valiant attempt to scramble back, she has to close out too hard and gets blown by for a layup.
Size (or lack thereof)
Making a mark in the WNBA isn't all about size. After all, in the past two seasons we've seen Crystal Dangerfield (5-foot-5) win Rookie of the Year and Leilani Mitchel (5-foot-5) win Most Improved Player.
But while it's possible to have success as a smaller guard, that doesn't mean it's easy. Heading into the 2021 season, only three players in the entire league -- Dangerfield, Mitchell and Jordin Canada -- are listed at or under Evan's 5-foot-6 stature.
As one of the smallest players in the league, Evans will face challenges. It will be much more difficult for her to finish at the rim, and on the defensive end, she'll always be at a size disadvantage. The good news is it's not as if she just suddenly became 5-foot-6, and she has skills of her own -- quickness, outside shooting, ability to read the game -- that will help mitigate some of those issues. Still, her size will be something teams take into consideration heading into the draft.
Evans is a really fun player. Whether it's a bounce, a swagger, whatever you want to call it, she has that little something extra that makes you stop and take notice. And while she's primarily a scorer, she's improved as a pick-and-roll facilitator and tries hard on the defensive end.
Her size is a valid concern, but she has some key skills -- namely quickness and outside shooting -- that will allow her to succeed at the next level. If she finds the right situation, it's easy to envision her sustaining a long career as a change-of-pace guard off the bench.