George Mason's Evans puts the war in warrior
Posted: Sunday March 07, 1999 08:33 PM
FAIRFAX, Va. (CNN/SI) -- He is the leading scorer in the Colonial Athletic Association. He ranks second in the league in blocked shots, second in steals and third in rebounding.
George Evans is a large reason the Patriots of George Mason won their first-ever regular-season conference championship and head to the NCAA Tournament for just the second time after beating Old Dominion in the CAA Tournament finals.
"He's like a soldier," teammate Eric Herring said. "He's not scared of anything."
Why should he be? After what Evans has faced, what's a little basketball mania? For you see, Evans is a real-life patriot, a 28-year-old sophomore who spent seven years in Army camouflage before putting on the green and white of George Mason University.
Think Cincinnati is an obstacle? Evans fought for a lot more in Somalia, Bosnia and Desert Storm.
"Every night you go to bed and you have to put your gas mask on," Evans said. "It's like 100 degrees outside. You're burning up. You hear sirens going off. You hear on the news that another building has been hit by a scud. You just pray every night, thank the Lord and hope that you get to see your family again."
Imagine a little hostile crowd noise and how Evans reacts to it after nightly air-raid sirens, scud missile attacks and the threat of Saddam Hussein's chemical weapons.
"I think the scariest moment I had while I was over there was when we were on patrol, three or four of us, and there were eight Iraqis that came up behind us," Evans said. "They could have shot us if they wanted to. Thank God they said, 'We surrender. We want food.' I think I'll never forget that."
The fear of either dying or never returning from the Persian Gulf was one thing, but Evans calls a U.S. peacekeeping mission in Haiti his worst assignment of all. He could feel the tension in the air, see the despair in the eyes of the starving people.
American forces were under strict orders not to give the locals food, he says, and to burn whatever the troops couldn't eat.
"People were actually jumping into the fire, burning themselves, hollering and screaming just to get the food out," Evans said. "People were standing on cardboard boxes. It was nothing to see a dead person in the street. That whole situation, the whole crisis was awful.
"I just thought back to that situation and realize things could be a lot worse. We're pouting and complaining because we lost this game. But there is going to be a lot more games."
Evans isn't a very vocal leader but his work ethic, discipline and unique perspective have rubbed off on his younger teammates. He was the league's freshman of the year last season and has improved in every statistical category this year.
And though, at 6-foot-7, he routinely gives away inches to opposing centers, rarely is he outplayed.
"He just has the right answers for everything," Herring said. "He goes out there on the court and he plays with fire. He brings so much emotion and intensity to the game that you can't help but to spark up."
As might be expected, despite the inspiration he provides his teammates, they are rarely without a barb or two about his age. Grandpa. Dad. Uncle George.
"They call him Sarge," GMU coach Jim Larannga said, referring to one of Evans' many nicknames. "There's nobody on the team that doesn't have a tremendous amount of respect for George. They love him."
Evans scored 15 points and grabbed seven rebounds in the Patriots' bid-clinching win in the CAA Tournament. Both were below his season averages of 17.8 points and 8.9 rebounds, but that didn't matter to Evans.
He's seen too much to know what is important."I want to win as bad as anybody I have ever been associated with," Evans said. "But I just thank God every day that I had an opportunity to better my future by playing ball and getting an education."
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