March 1, 2010

By Jeff White (

CHARLOTTESVILLE — As the end of Jontel Evans’ first season at UVa approaches, it’s clear he can be a lock-down defender.

The 5-11 point guard has quick hands and quick feet, and with 32 steals, he’s second on the team only to Sammy Zeglinski (33), who has played 361 more minutes than Evans.

His ceiling as a college basketball player, however, depends on how much he improves at the other end of court.

Evans is averaging 15.8 minutes per game, and he’d have played more if he were more of an offensive threat. His scoring average is a paltry 2.6 points per game.

In ACC games, Evans is 13 for 48 from the floor and 6 for 12 from the line. He’s missed all seven of his 3-point attempts.

Overall, the former Bethel High star is shooting 40.5 percent from the floor, 16.7 percent from 3-point range and 56.3 percent from the line. Evans knows those numbers must rise if he is to become a fixture in the Cavaliers’ lineup, and he’s looking forward to working on his shot after the season.

“I feel like I can be an impact player, depending on what type of summer I have in the offseason,” Evans said Sunday night after UVa’s loss to No. 5 Duke at John Paul Jones Arena.

“The coaches have been telling me, ‘We’re going to work real hard on your shot in the offseason.’ I’m just ready to take that step and take another step in my game and my career.”

Tony Bennett looks forward to working with Evans in the offseason. As a point guard at Wisconsin-Green Bay, Bennett made 49.7 percent of his 3-pointers, still an NCAA record, and during his coaching career Bennett has seen players improve their shooting markedly.

“I don’t know if I’ve ever had a guy just become a lights-out shooter who has struggled,” Bennett said on the ACC coaches’ teleconference Monday, “but just mechanically you can improve, and certainly we’ll work on that during the season. But where you really attack that is the offseason.”

He said he’s noticed “a lot of motion” in Evans’ shot. If Evans were a golfer, Bennett would advise him to become “compact in your stroke, compact in your swing, so less can go wrong.”

Against Duke, Evans was 1 for 3 from the floor and 3 for 4 from the line. He had three steals and blocked a shot.

Evans has a tendency to drop the ball below his waist and drift, Bennett said, and “he needs to tighten some of those things up to make it a little more of a consistent shot. And that’s something that we’ll go to work on. And I have had guys in the past who have improved and become a threat that way, and that will be important for the development of him, and it will certainly help our program.”

UVa (5-9, 14-13) has two regular-season games left. The first is Wednesday at 9 p.m. against ACC rival Boston College (5-9, 14-14) at Chestnut Hill, Mass.

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