Jan. 15, 2009
By Keenan Bowen, EWU Sports Information
Only a sophomore, guard Kyla Evans is a major player in the world of Big Sky Conference basketball. The 5-foot-11 native of Brewster, Wash., is averaging 11.4 points per game for the Eagles, who are 8-9 overall and 3-1 in conference play.
Evans is a major weapon from beyond the arc, shooting 37.7 percent (40-of-106) from long range so far this season. Last season, she finished her freshman year shooting 41.3 percent (52-of-126) which was good for fifth all-time at Eastern. That percentage would have ranked her at 24th nationally in 2007-08 if she hadn't missed 11 games during Big Sky play because of a foot injury.
Evans maintains a 3.81 grade point average in honors classes and was named to the Big Sky Conference All-Academic team last season.
The Eagles are fresh off an 82-68 road win over Weber State, snapping a 22-game losing streak Eastern had to the Wildcats in Ogden, Utah, dating to Feb. 13, 1988 (a 71-68 EWU victory).
The Eagles take on Northern Colorado tonight at 7:05 in Reese Court.
Q: What are the challenges of maintaining a great GPA while taking honors classes and playing basketball?
A: "The biggest challenge is managing your time, especially when you start traveling. It gets really hard because you miss a lot of class time so you just have to get with your professors and make friends in class so you can get notes. You have to do your homework on the road, stuff like that. You have to prioritize the things in your life - school and basketball are the top two things in my life so I make room for them."
Q: How was the transition from playing basketball at a small high school to playing Division I basketball?
A: "It was a huge transition; the tempo of the game and the strength and quickness overall of the players is just different. I came from a town where I was the biggest girl in the high school so I played the post; obviously here I am not a post. So that was a huge transition, as far as just getting quicker and stronger and working on my ball handling and getting better conditioned. In high school I was at the top of those things and when I got here I was at the bottom. I really had to work to increase those aspects of my game and my physicality."
Q: How has the transition been from your freshman year to this season?
A: "It has been pretty smooth. I worked really hard this past spring and summer to develop my game. Last year the bulk of my shots were from the three-point line, and I realized that it is one of my strengths, but I wanted to expand my game offensively, so I wasn't just a one-track player. I worked on my pull-up jumper and my overall quickness and strength, so I could become a better defensive player. I see that as one of my bigger weaknesses on the court. So just with a lot of work in the off-season, I was able to make a smooth transition."
Q: You play more minutes than anyone else on the team - does any added pressure come along with that?
A: "I really don't think there is a lot of added pressure. We have a really well-rounded and balanced team. On any given night anyone on our team all the way down the bench can step up and bring it. I'm an unselfish player, and if it's my night to step up and score more, or get things done like that, then I am going to do that. If it's not, I know my teammates are going to pick up the slack. We have such a great team, and I feel like collectively we can get things done."
Q: What is your favorite basketball memory?
A: "In high school it was my senior year, and we had never made it to state. We had always lost in the loser out-winner to state game. So once again we were in that game against Lakeside High School, and we won. It was the best feeling I've ever had, because it was four years of anticipation and we finally won."
Q: What part of basketball do you like best?
A: "I like the camaraderie of a team. I feel like I came to college and left my family but I gained a family with my teammates and coaches. We just all get along so well, and I feel like I am building lifelong memories and friends from this experience."
Q: Who have been the most influential people in your playing career?
A: "There are a few. First and foremost, my dad. He played in college and professionally, and he has been there every step of the way. He has pretty much taught me everything I know about the game, so I owe him a lot. He comes to every home game and is my biggest supporter. I know I wouldn't be here without that support and teaching. Also Gary Goble - he was one of my coaches throughout junior high and high school, and he helped me a lot. Also Luke Ridnour! He is my favorite player, so I just have to give a shout out to him! I have been watching him since he was a sophomore in high school, which is why I wear number 13, because that is what he wore in high school and college. He is legit!"
Q: If you were stranded on an island and could have one teammate with you, who would it be and why?
A: "I would have to say Julie Piper, because she is an insanely outdoors-type person. She could probably kill us dinner, make us a fire and somehow construct a house out of nature. I can't really do those things myself so I'd probably take her along!"
Q: You started off well last season and then got hit with a foot injury - how was that and how hard was it to get back into game form?
A: "That was a hard situation for me, because I got hurt right when Big Sky Conference play started. Everyone knows that is the only part of the season that really counts, so that was really disappointing to have to sit out. I worked really hard when I was out, I biked and swam every single day and pretty much anything I could do without using my foot. That made the transition coming back a little bit easier, but nothing is the same as playing. It was just hard because when you are hurt, you don't really feel like you are part of the team anymore. Even though my teammates did a good job of keeping me in the loop, you still feel a little bit out of it."
Q: What goals do you have for the remainder of the 2008-09 season?
A: "One of the primary reasons I came to Eastern was because it was my only Division I offer, and I wanted to play Division I basketball because I want a chance to go to the Big Dance. Everyone wants to get to that tournament, so obviously that is the goal everyone sees in the far distance. But of course we have to take it game by game, and we want to finish off the conference season the best we can and make it to the Big Sky Tournament. Anything can happen at the point, so our goal is to win the Big Sky Tournament."