Trevor Evans is usually right in the middle of every game plan for the Pioneers, but even he didn’t understand the message scribbled on the board before the Cookeville game. Like the rest of his teammates, Evans was curious why the number 22 was the only thing written.
When the whole team gathered, coach Chris Sullens let his team in on what it meant. It was time for Evans to suit up against Cookeville.
“Our leader on this basketball team is a guy who has sat on the bench, kept stats and done everything we’ve asked him to do,” said Sullens, following his team’s 15-point win over a huge rival. “We found out he’s the ultimate competitor. He makes no excuses and doesn’t talk about anything but Pioneer success. Our team has rallied around Trevor Evans. They play hard for that young man because he busts his butt every single day.”
Evans quickly got into uniform, which is just the second time he’s been able to put on his No. 22 jersey this season. The manager, who has cerebral palsy, scored five points in his debut against Richard Hardy in December, earning all-tournament honors at the Sonic Shootout in the process.
Though he didn’t have any points Friday, his team moved to 2-0 when he gets to play. He was able to again against the Cavaliers because the Pioneers built a double-digit lead early and never let up, something Sullens believes had to do with Evans’ selflessness and leadership.
“The kid competes every day. He does anything we ask and he says he hates other teams. He lives and breathes our team. Number 22 brings it each night and if you can’t do what he does, then you aren’t a competitor,” said Sullens.
Irving Espinoza, who scored 28 points to lead the Pioneers to victory, wasn’t going to be the one to let his senior teammate down.
“It’s very big to have Trevor on the bench. He’s our leader – we have to do it for Trevor. He wanted us to beat Cookeville and we had to do it for him,” said Espinoza.
For Evans, he did what he does each time the Pioneers take the court. He celebrated with teammates, handed out advice and encouragement and waited patiently for his number to be called.
“I knew my minutes wouldn’t be up, but I’ve never walked into a gym expecting minutes. Whatever I have to do, I’ll do,” said Evans.
His job Friday was to celebrate and he did it better than anybody else at Charlie Dalton Gym.
“After a road trip, being home is fun. The crowd is into it, the bench is into it. It’s a good time,” said Evans.
And late in the night, with the victory still playing over and over in his mind, Evans said what everybody else was already thinking.
“Beating Cookeville is always fun.”