Luella rising senior Nyrryk Evans is gaining significant recruiting interest while learning how to be a leader for a young Lions team.
The leader-in-training sits next to Luella boy’s basketball coach Jamond Sims on the Lions bench while the up-and-comers are on the court at Eagle’s Landing Christian Academy for a summer league game.
It’s Nyrryk Evans who calls out the play — “High-low!” he shouts — when his teammates look lost. It’s Evans who is the first off the bench when the halftime buzzer sounds to give players high-fives and gather them for Sims.
And when Luella’s opponent, Stone Mountain, mounts a swift comeback in the second half, it’s Evans who calmly hits two free throws in the waning seconds, but not before he fits in one more instruction — “No fouls, you guys,” he says.
“The eighth graders coming in are looking at me,” said Evans, a rising senior. “I have to carry that role on and off the court.”
Evans and rising junior shooting guard TeMarcus Blanton are trying to give Luella the leadership Sims believes has kept the Lions from reaching the state tournament for too long.
“I think that’s been our achilles heel for awhile,” Sims said. “We’ve always had talented players, but talented players without that one leader directing them. It’s been tough.”
Luella had a tough finish to last season. After a 13-2 start, the Lions went 4-7 the rest of the way, losing in the first round of the Region 2-AAAAA tournament and missing out on the playoffs again. This summer, Sims is looking for players to replace six seniors who graduated.
The core of the team contains some exciting talent. Blanton is a 6-foot-4, 180-pound shooting guard who already has a scholarship offer from Mercer. Sims says rising senior Jared Hendricks, who is the starting quarterback on Luella’s football team, is the program’s best shooter. There’s also rising sophomore Doral Moore, a 6-foot-10 center who is raw in skill but loaded with potential.
And Evans is starting to gain some recognition on the recruiting trail. The 5-foot-11 guard is getting interest from schools like Cornell, Evansville, Furman, Florida Atlantic, Georgia Southern, Jacksonville, Chattanooga and Tennessee Tech.
All of it started in late March. Evans went with his AAU team, Team Georgia Elite, to the Big Shots Clemson tournament at Clemson University.
Evans wasn’t pleased with his performance. He played injured. But that didn’t bother coaches in attendance.
Coaches started calling Evans, seeking him out on Twitter and making plans to watch him play in July.
“It’s been fun,” Evans said, “Different coaches have been calling me. And then Twitter — I retweet a lot of stuff from scouts. ... It’s something different every day, but I’m blessed.”
These days, Evans is still trying to grasp the finer qualities of leadership.
“You have to watch a lot of stuff you do,” he said. “You can’t say everything you want on Twitter. Just being a role model. At the end of the day, they’re looking at me, saying whatever he can do, I can do.”
According to Sims, it’s a work in progress, but one that could pay off.
“[Evans] and Blanton are doing a good job trying to be leaders,” Sims said. “Still got to make that twist from being friends all the time. Once they put friendship aside and lead on the floor, they’ll be OK.”