Shot-Blocking King Dennis Evans III Stands Tall for U.S. U17 World Cup Squad
As a 15-year-old, Dennis Evans III gave it everything he had.
He tried out for the USA Basketball squad that would compete in the FIBA U16 Americas Championship last year, and as cut down day approached he was optimistic that his name would be on the list. But he didn’t make the team.
Fast forward to this summer and Evans knew what to expect. He improved his game over the last year. He added some strength to his frame. He competed harder in training camp. And when the roster for the FIBA U17 World Cup was announced in late June, his name was on it.
The tournament takes place in Malaga, Spain, from July 2-10. The U.S. is seeking its sixth consecutive gold medal.
“That was an extremely nice thing to see,” Evans, now 16, said about making the team. “It was an exciting moment for me.”
Evans’ mind floated back to the previous summer’s training camp and the disappointment he felt missing out on the U16 team.
“I think it really helped me as a person,” Evans said. “I always had hope I would make the team, but the way things went, it didn’t work out. But I took it as motivation.”
When he found out that he made the U17 team, Evans was eager to share the news. He quickly contacted his parents and his cousin, among others.
“They were really excited for me and happy I was able to make the team,” Evans said.
The U.S. began play Saturday with a win against Lebanon, followed by another win on Sunday over Slovenia. The team will look to finish 3-0 in group play today with a matchup against Mali. Evans has been an effective contributor so far this World Cup, but the U17 big man gets the most pride from the USA's continued success.
“It’s an honor to be able to play for my country,” said Evans, who lives in Riverside, California. “I get to represent them in a way that a lot of people can’t. It’s extremely fun. It’s exciting to do. They told us before we came out here that USA Basketball is building a culture around winning and we would like to keep that culture going.”
At 7 feet, 1 inch, Evans is the tallest player on the U17 roster. No other player is taller than 6-9, and Evans is the one listed as a center.
That said, Evans doesn’t view any of that as extra pressure on him. If anything, it’s just a reminder to play intelligently.
“I’ve always been good at avoiding foul trouble, so there’s not any extra stress involved in being the only center,” he said. “I just have to make sure I’m more aware of how the refs are officiating things.”
Evans was one of the elite shot-blockers in high school basketball this past season and has risen to No. 12 in Rival.com’s national recruit rankings. He averaged a double-double in points (11.6) and rebounds (10.0) at Hillcrest High School in Riverside, while adding seven blocks per game. In one game he blocked 16 shots.
“I have really good timing and positioning,” Evans said about his shot-blocking efforts, “and I also try my best to communicate with my teammates.”
Evans’ offensive game is still progressing. He has been putting in time to improve his post moves and he has particularly focused on expanding his shooting range.
“I’ve made some good strides in that, but I still have work to do,” he said. “During the pandemic, I’ve learned to be able to shoot the ball a little bit better and take better control of the ball, and make sure I’m aware of the situations around me. But, yeah, I’ve improved tremendously as I’ve grown into my body.”
Evans shoots 3-pointers occasionally, but he remains focused on his mid-range game.
“I don’t want to be just a rim-running big,” he said. “I want to be able to score both inside and outside.”
Evans is one of the fast-rising players in the Class of 2023, and his scholarship offers include NCAA champion Kansas, according to Rivals and 247sports.com. His personal goals lead toward enshrinement in Springfield, Massachusetts.
“My overall end goal would be to be a Hall of Fame player,” he said.
Drew Silverman is a freelance contributor to USAB.com on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc.