In the one-and-done era, we hear from the national media that covers college basketball that freshmen have never been better because some guy who’s seven feet tall and a freak athlete comes in to the game and immediately dominates.
Every year, those are maybe five or ten guys, a small percentage of all the freshmen in college basketball. The vast majority still struggle with the transition. That dribble move that fooled everybody in high school suddenly doesn’t work on college defenders, and if you do beat your man off the dribble, there’s often a really good rim protector back there to add a degree of difficulty. You’ve been the best athlete on the floor for pretty much your entire life, and now that’s no longer the case.
That was Maxwell Evans in 2017-18. We knew coming in that Evans was a good athlete, but not a freak athlete, He’s athletic enough to keep up in the SEC, but not athletic enough to be a standout. Which also means he’s the kind of guy who is used to being the best athlete on the floor basically every time he plays; now, he’s the best athlete on the floor basically never.
And though Evans played the third-fewest minutes on the team, averaging 13.0 minutes per game (though that bumped up to 15.1 mpg in SEC play, and he started 12 of the team’s 18 conference games), that adjustment period played out mostly in front of cameras. Evans showed some ability to get into the lane, and his free throw percentage (84.8 percent) suggests that there’s nothing fundamentally wrong with his shooting — but that translated into a 39 percent mark on two-pointers and 33.3 percent on three-pointers.
Evans was quite streaky from the perimeter; he shot 9-of-14 from three over Vanderbilt’s final six games — on the flipside, he went 2-for-12 from three in Vanderbilt’s first four SEC games. Anecdotally, he seemed to get his shot blocked more than anyone, which could account for the low percentage inside the arc.
With all that said, there’s a good chance we won’t see much more of Evans next year than we did this year. With Darius Garland entering the program, Vanderbilt’s starting backcourt should be set — and if Romeo Langford joins the team, too, Evans might well be a redshirt candidate. As it stands, he figures to be in the guard rotation next year but well behind Garland and Lee. That doesn’t mean I don’t think much of his potential, but he’s got a long way to go.
Grade: C. This was about what we reasonably could have expected Evans to do as a freshman, and on a better team, he probably wouldn’t have started 15 games; it’s not really Evans’ fault that Larry Austin was not a viable option.