Thursday’s basketball game started like any other for student manager Trevor Evans. The senior took his spot at the head of the Pioneer bench, meticulously tracking stats while shouting encouragement to players.
When the Pioneers built a huge lead by halftime, coach Chris Sullens got an idea. It was time for Evans to show he’s not just the brains behind the operation on the Pioneer sideline – the manager can ball too.
Evans, who has cerebral palsy, suited up in the second half and scored five points in a 90-36 victory for the Pioneers over Richard Hardy.
“Coach Sullens turned to me and said, 'Go get ready.' I knew when I came out (of the locker room), I was going in,,”said Evans, who has served as a basketball manager since sixth grade.
Like Clark Kent finding a phone booth to transform into Superman, Evans went to the locker rooms and slipped into his No. 22 jersey. Unlike the comic books, Evans kept his glasses and didn’t bother with a cape. His performance was no less heroic though.
Evans’ debut was delayed for a minute as the Pioneers had to take a technical for sending in a player who wasn’t on the roster at the start of the game.
“At halftime, coach Jalen Smith asked if he was on the roster and we discussed how it would be a perfect opportunity to let him play. We text AD Todd Willmore to make sure he was on the roster and got confirmation he could play,” said Sullens. “He suited up and played well. I, like everyone in our program, was happy to see him play and succeed.”
The short delay for two free throws only served to let the energy build in the gym. The crowd was buzzing by the time Evans made his way to the offensive end, everybody hoping he would get his chance.
Evans didn’t wait long to give the crowd and the Pioneer bench the moment they were waiting for.
After missing long on his first shot, fellow senior Will Rivers corralled the board and kicked it back to Evans. Standing wide open behind the 3-point line, Evans gathered his feet, took aim and fired.
"My first shot was about two feet above the square. I was turning back to get back on defense, but we got the offensive board. I turned, caught it and banked it in. I shot it before I could even think about it," said Evans, who swished a shot from the elbow on the next possession. "I tell the guys everyday in practice, back in the day, I was a midrange shooter. They didn't believe me, but now they got to believe me."
The crowd exploded when Evans’ shot banked in, especially the Pioneer bench. For a moment, the rest of the Warren County basketball team was able to show the support they get constantly from their diligent manager and friend.
“It meant a lot. No one knows the work he puts in everyday to be in the place he is now,” said CJ Taylor, who has become as close with Evans as any member on the squad. “When he wanted me to go back with him (to suit up), I almost started tearing up, but it was the kind of thing that made me laugh at the same time.
“Trev deserves the praise. He is a straight bucket getter in practice and one heck of a friend.”
After a short break to start the fourth, Evans re-entered late. While he wasn’t able to add to his point total, he did what he urges the team to do every night, picking up defensively in the backcourt, blocking out to secure boards and hustling the court.
"We tell them everyday, 'Effort and energy all the way through.' I wanted to go in and show my guys I could do it too,” said Evans.
With the final seconds ticking off, the ball fittingly found its way to Evans. He dribbled out the clock in front of the Pioneer bench, getting mobbed by teammates when the final buzzer sounded.
It was a moment Sullens will cherish, knowing all-too-well how much Evans has done to earn his instant fame.
“Trevor means so much to our program. The young man is a huge part of our team,” said Sullens. “It was refreshing to see how a group of young men rallied around their teammate and want success for him. It is hard to put into words how much we learn from Trevor every day and how he embodies what we want our young men to be – a good teammate.”
Even as fans showered their support on social media, calling it one of the moments of the year, Evans made sure he represented the name on the front of his jersey before the name on the back.
“It was a heck of a night, but I have to disagree,” Evans tweeted after his shot was called the highlight of the year. “The highlight of the year is when we hang banners in the Dalt (Charlie Dalton Gym). Thanks to all my teammates and coaches.”
If there is a banner to be put up after this season, there’s only one person who will be tasked with raising it to the rafters – the team’s manager, the sniper from deep and the best teammate in Warren County.