Evelyn adds leadership, versatility to Iowa men’s basketball

Bakari Evelyn is new to the Iowa men's basketball program, but he has already taken on a leadership role for the Hawkeyes.


Katie Goodale

Bakari Evelyn speaks with members of the press during an Iowa men’s basketball media availability at Carver-Hawkeye Arena on July 24, 2019.

Robert Read, Assistant Sports Editor

Sometimes a change of scenery can take some getting used to. For Iowa men’s basketball guard Bakari Evelyn, he’s ready to play — and lead — wherever he goes.

This season will be Evelyn’s first as a Hawkeye, but he is by no means inexperienced. The Detroit, Michigan, native started his college career at Nebraska before transferring to Valparaiso after his freshman campaign.

Now, after two seasons at Valparaiso, Evelyn joins Iowa’s program as a graduate transfer.

This is the first time in Iowa head coach Fran McCaffery’s 10-year tenure that Iowa has brought on a graduate transfer, and McCaffery is more than pleased with the results so far.

“It’s gone about as well as we would have hoped, and it’s one of the main reasons why we wanted him,” McCaffery said. “Bakari is really mature. He’s had different roles already. He comes in, and while he’s new and we have new faces, he’s just a veteran guy in terms of how he prepares, how he thinks, how he performs on the floor.”

In Evelyn’s first season at Valparaiso, he ranked second on the team, averaging 12.6 points per game and earning Missouri Valley Conference All-Newcomer Team honors. Last season, he drained 48 3-pointers and ranked second on the team with 68 assists.

That skillset will be a key addition to the Iowa offense this season.

“Bakari is an extremely talented scorer,” sophomore Joe Wieskamp said. “He can make plays happen with the ball, and that’s going to be big for us.”

Despite being new to the program, Evelyn has already taken on a leadership role for the Hawkeyes in the eyes of McCaffery.

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“While Bakari Evelyn is new, he’s not young,” McCaffery said. “He commands the respect of everybody. When you meet him and get to know him, you can understand why and what that means.”

In particular, Evelyn has been there to help Iowa’s younger players adjust to the life of a college athlete.

“I feel as though I am a leader,” Evelyn said. “Not necessarily in words all the time, but just guidance for the younger players like Patrick [McCaffery], Joe [Toussaint]. Because I’ve been through it before on multiple levels, so just helping them and being an advocate for them and just giving them good advice whenever they need it.”

That guidance Evelyn provides ranges from on-court help to assistance off of it.

McCaffery and Toussaint have never gone through a season of college basketball or a semester of college before. The two freshmen and Evelyn are entering the program at the same time, and Evelyn has the experience and advice to help them out along the way.

“Just getting through three-hour practices is a big thing,” Evelyn said. “With them being in high school, they haven’t been through the intensity and long grind of practices and long days. Just making sure they take care of their bodies, getting in the ice tub. Me being a guy who is older, I’m in the ice tub all the time. Just little things like that, helping them adjust to the college life.”

Evelyn will only spend one season in the Black and Gold. However, he brings with him the talent and leadership to contribute heavily in his limited time in Iowa City.

“I’ve been through winning seasons, losing seasons,” Evelyn said. “I just know what it takes day in and day out to be successful at this level.”

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