Not long ago, people referred to Tyreke Evans as a mini LeBron. We were talking All-Star Games, possible MVP selections and championships. But somewhere along the way, his national standing took a hit, and Sacramento eventually moved on without him. Now that he’s getting a fresh start in New Orleans, it’s time for Evans to reclaim his status as one of the best young talents in the NBA.
Recently, we caught up with ‘Reke while the 6-6 guard was taking part in his third annual free basketball camp held in conjunction with VSP Vision Care. Three hundred children from the Sacramento area, selected by the Treat’em Like a King Foundation, are given an opportunity to play some basketball and get an important healthcare service: a comprehensive eye exam.
Evans took a break from the action to talk to us about his true position, how leaving Sacramento will motivate him and whether he will accept coming off the bench for the Pelicans.
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Dime: On July 11 and 12 in Sacramento, you held your third annual free basketball camp for 300 kids selected by the Treat ‘Em Like a King Foundation, in conjunction with VSP Vision Care. How did you get involved with this?
Tyreke Evans: I got involved with the camp through VSP, about three years ago. I’m very excited about it, especially for the kids, you know. It’s an opportunity for them to go to a camp for free, get free exams, free supplies for school. For kids that can’t really go to camp, they can come to this camp for free and get a chance to meet, you know, their favorite player or one of their favorite players.
Dime: As a kid, did you have an experience at a basketball camp that was memorable or that left an impact on you as a youngster?
TE: Not when I was young, but as I got older and started going to camps for AAU and, like, the LeBron camps and things like that. I think it’s a good idea for us to do a camp out here in Sacramento and, you know, I do one at home in Chester, too, so I think it’s a pretty good idea for us do camps like this where kids can get free eye exams and just go to camp.
Dime: What is your favorite thing about these camps?
TE: The important thing for me is just interacting with them, you know, just getting a chance to hear what they have to say. Sometimes, they don’t know what to say. They just feel shy, but at the end of the day, some kids, they just ask you questions about being on the basketball court, you know, what it’s like playing against other players, like LeBron and Kobe and things like that.
Dime: Where do you train in the offseason, and who do you train with?
TE: It’s been kind of off with the trade situation and things like that, but I’m fixin’ to start training in a couple of weeks. I usually train with my cousin Pooh. We work out a lot and train most of the time when I’m in L.A., but I think I’m gonna try something different this year. I’m gonna work on my core, run on the beach, you know, get faster, things like that.
Dime: What part of your game are you working on that you want to improve?
TE: Man, I feel great knowing that my shooting has improved this year. I shot a higher field goal percentage this year. I just want to continue being consistent on knocking down that shot. I put a lot of effort into that and hard work, you know, just trying to be an all-around player. The main thing for me is just knocking down that shot.
Dime: Are you playing in any summer leagues or pro-am games?
TE: I haven’t played any yet, but I think I might play a few games in the Drew League after I sign my contract and things like that. I want to wait until I sign and get things situated.
Dime: With all the turmoil in Sacramento the past few seasons, what’s been the biggest challenge for your personally, and how do you stay focused as a player and as a teammate?
TE: It’s been a tough challenge for me, but I think I handled it well. Just the coaching changes, not having a consistent coach throughout my career, it definitely was a challenge, and with the positions moving from point guard, to small forward, back to shooting guard, it was a challenge for me to try to go out there and figure it out, and try to be the best player I can be, you know. I just went out there and just played hard every night and stayed focused.
Dime: What was the most stressful part of the free agent frenzy, and what was the most exciting part about that for you?
TE: I don’t think it was stressful because I knew there were teams that wanted me, so once I felt like I was wanted, I was pretty happy with that part, but you know, it was just a process, seeing what it’s like going through being a free agent. It was almost kind of like back when I was in college, feeling things out â€“ college teams and coaches â€“ about where I want to go and play at, so you know, it was definitely an experience for me, so next time I find myself in that situation, I’ll definitely know what to expect, but it went pretty good, though.
Dime: Whose advice did you seek throughout this process? Did you talk to other players who have been free agents?
TE: Nobody really helped me out. I mean, you know, my agent really showed me the ropes, what’s going to happen, how to find out everything that I want to know about the team and things like that.
Dime: An article in The Sacramento Bee quoted you as saying you would have preferred to remain in Sacramento. Does the fact that they didn’t match your offer give you any extra motivation as a player?
TE: That definitely motivates me, you know. It’s a new chapter in my life, and I’m happy about this new situation. I’ve got new teammates, new fans, you know, so I’m looking forward to going out there and playing with my new teammates.
Dime: What is your message to the city of Sacramento and the fans who have supported you over the years?
TE: I just wanna tell them thanks for everything they did since day one, you know, when I got off the plane, the fans were cheering. It was great. I was excited. All the games, you know, they’ve been there supporting us, even when I’m out eating with family and friends, they always show support. They’re good fans, and I wish them the best of luck.
Dime: New Orleans is a fun town â€“ great food, great music, great culture â€“ what are you most looking forward to in terms of actually living there now?
TE: I’m looking forward to it, like I said, It’s just something new for me. [When we traveled there] I would just go out and get something to eat. Their food is pretty good, and you know, just getting to see the city and things like that, so I’m definitely looking forward to it, you know. I read about the city, and it’s a great city. I’m looking forward to going out there and meeting new fans, and you know, get this thing on the road and try to make the playoffs this year.
Dime: Have you spoken to any of your new teammates â€“ Holiday, Rivers, Davis â€“ about joining the team and what you guys want to accomplish this year?
TE: I’ve not really talked to many of them yet, except Eric Gordon, Ryan Anderson. We chatted before on the plane because he [Anderson] was home in Sacramento. We texted each other, and he let me know that he was looking forward to me coming down there, and I told him I was looking forward to playing with him. But I know Jrue pretty good. I haven’t talked to him yet, but I know he’s in China. I heard he just came back, though. We were pretty good friends through AUU basketball and the McDonald’s [All-American] Game, so I know Jrue pretty well, and the other guys, I’m just looking forward to meeting them.
Dime: Have you talked to Coach Monty Williams yet, and if so, what message did he have for you in terms of joining the team?
TE: I texted coach Monty, and he seems like a real good coach, you know. I’ve heard good stories about him, so I’m looking forward to being coached by him. Before, I had talked to him on the phone, and you know, he was excited that I’m gonna be there for a long time and for us to improve our record. I’m looking forward to going out there and working hard for him and just trying to be the best player I can be.
Dime: In Sacramento, you played some point guard, some shooting guard, and even some small forward. What do you think is your ideal position?
TE: For me, probably running the show, but I don’t mind playing two-guard. I already played there, so I know that position pretty well, but I’m quite sure Monty Williams knows what I can do and the position I like to play, so you know, we’re just gonna go from there. But whatever he wants me to play, I’m willing to do whatever he needs me to do.
DM: It’s a pretty crowded backcourt with Holiday, Gordon, and Rivers, and there’s been some talk about you possibly coming off the bench as a sixth man, so is that a role that you’d be willing to embrace?
TE: Definitely, you know. I mean, I think I’m a starter, but with the team we got, if it’ll help us win games, then I’m definitely willing to do that.
Should Evans start or come off the bench in New Orleans?
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