Stephanie Storm

KENT: Kent State senior guard/forward Chris Evans was a scrawny, 5-foot-8, 12-year-old the first time he dunked a basketball.

“I’d been working on it for like two weeks and was so happy when I finally did it,” said Evans, then in middle school. “We’d always end P.E. class with guys trying to dunk. When I did it, everybody just went crazy.”

Fast forward some 10 years, and it’s hard to imagine the act of dunking not being as natural as breathing for the self-proclaimed Dr. Dunkinstein — Evans’ Twitter handle.

In his first season with the Golden Flashes last year, his dunks were can’t-miss spectacles that were worth the price of admission.

In almost every game, Evans, an athletic 6-foot-8 junior from Virginia, displayed an array of one- and two-handed slams that his teammates would help script beforehand. There were reverses and sky-high alley-oop dunks that elicited thunderous applause.

“He’s the most athletic perimeter player I’ve ever been around,” said Flashes coach Rob Senderoff, who spent a season as an assistant coach at Indiana in the Big Ten Conference between his two KSU coaching stints.

A sneak peak of Evans and a handful of his teammates’ best moves will be on display tonight in a dunk contest that’s part of the men’s and women’s basketball preview party that will be held from 6 to 8 p.m. at the M.A.C. Center.

By the time Evans was in ninth grade, he had sprouted to 6-foot-4. Despite him battling aching knees for a few years due to growing so fast, it was obvious that basketball was going to help take Evans places.

Heading into his senior year in high school, Evans made his first sacrifice for basketball.

After playing AAU ball during the summer with a group of guys from another high school nearly two hours away, Evans made the tough decision to leave home and transfer from Deep Creek High School in Chesapeake, Va., to join his teammates at Petersburg High School in Petersburg, Va.

“I was trying to get the best basketball opportunity I could,” Evans said. “I was 17 and it was the first time I was away from home. But it was an experience that really helped me grow as a person and mature as a man.”

It also meant leaving his mom and dad, Kathy and Joe Evans, on weekdays while staying with the mother of his AAU coach. The only time he went home was on weekends when he didn’t have games.

“But the guys on my team really accepted me. My coach’s mom kind of became like an aunt to me,” Evans said of Kim White. “She helped take care of me and was really religious. She made sure I prayed each morning before I left for school.”

Evans’ new prep team enjoyed a 30-0 season before losing in the state semifinals. Despite the success, his college prospects weren’t as plentiful as he’d hoped they’d be due to his status as a late academic qualifier.

“I had to take the ACT a second time,” he said. “By the time I got it back, it was [early] April and most schools had already signed a bunch of guys.”

Coincidentally, Evans made an official visit to Kent State. But with his sights set on “bigger schools” at the time, he didn’t seriously consider coming to Kent State.

“I was caught up on the wrong things at the time and didn’t realize what was really important,” said Evans, who’d initially heard about KSU from former Flashes player and Virginia product Tyree Evans.

“At the time, I was thinking a bigger school meant a bigger stage to play on. So, I really wasn’t paying much attention when I was here the first time.”

Evans began his college career at Coastal Carolina in South Carolina. But when he only played in mop-up situations, he transferred to Wabash Valley Community College in Illinois as a sophomore.

There, Evans’ basketball career soared. He averaged 19.5 points, 8.2 rebounds and 2.0 assists per game in leading the team to a 29-7 record and regional title.

And this time when the Kent State staff showed interest in Evans, he was more than happy to accept.

“I felt like it was a second chance,” said Evans, who averaged 9.5 points and 4.1 rebounds as the Flashes’ sixth man last season.

This season, dunking will take a bit of a back seat to a new role as a senior leader.

“It’s definitely a new thing for me,” Evans said. “I’m more of a lead-by-example kind of guy. But I realize I’m in more of a position of influence this season. I know the young guys look to me to do the right things the right way.”

Stephanie Storm can be reached at sstorm@thebeaconjournal.com. Read the Kent State blog at https://ohio.com/flashes. Follow her on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/SStormABJ and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/sports.abj.