December 12, 2022
Why Dana Evans is ready for the next step of her career
'I want to be on the court and show what I can do'
Early last season, Dana Evans was working out with the Chicago Sky’s assistant coaches when an idea arose from the group. The 5’6 guard was about to finish up before being joined by the rest of her teammates for practice when one of the coaches asked Evans if she could try to touch the net.
“She asked, ‘Are you serious?’ and we were like, ‘Yeah, just try to touch the net,'” Chicago’s top assistant coach Emre Vatansever recalled.
Evans paced 15 feet back from where she was standing and started charging towards the basket. Upon reaching her launch point, she flew through the air before making solid contact with backboard, shocking everyone on the floor. Sky coach/general manager James Wade coincidentally was walking through the doorway as Evans was changing altitudes. Astonished, he asked Evans to do it again.
“I don’t think he believed it,” she told The Next in a phone interview, laughing.
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So she did it again, this time almost touching the rim. Multiple attempts later, Wade and the rest of the coaching staff were fully introduced to the new heights Evans had reached.
In 2023, Evans has one plan: soaring past the expectations people might have for a WNBA second round pick at her size. She is already well on her way to accomplishing that.
Many Sky fans would say Game 3 of the 2021 WNBA Finals was Evans’ “Welcome to the WNBA” moment but she pointed to last year’s season opener as her coming out party. Evans went into training camp looking more polished as a scorer and earned the starting nod on opening night with Allie Quigley managing injuries. She struggled in the first half, but sent Wintrust Arena into a frenzy after pouring in 17 third-quarter points to go along with three assists and two steals.
The Sky lost the game but it was a big moment in Evans’ career. In extended minutes, she proved she has the DNA of a reliable guard in the league.
“I’ve been working really hard on getting my teammates involved and doing it the first game of the season I was like, ‘Okay, now I’ve earned myself minutes and respect around the league,” Evans said. “The league is really talented and earning that respect to just show people what you can do is really important.”
It is one thing to show why you deserve a spot in the league and another to keep it throughout your career. Evans showed she has the talent to stick in the league. Now, it’s about elevating her skillset to a point where she is a mainstay. People will point to her size as a reason for why she won’t be able to achieve that. However, there is an historical precedent that suggests she can hang in the WNBA despite basketball shifting in favor of longer, athletic wings. Eight of the top 100 scorers in league history are 5’7 or shorter. That list includes Becky Hammon, who at 5’6 has the sixth-most assists and 15th-most points in the league’s 26-year span.
Evans has come a long way since she was drafted by Dallas Wings in the second round. Her shot-making ability rivals some of the best shooters in the league. She made 44.2% of her catch and shoot opportunities last season, good for 10th in the WNBA. Her instincts of using her athleticism to get to the rim have sharpened which helps her get clean looks when bigs like 6’8 Liz Cambage can’t recover fast enough to alter her shots at the basket.
“She has the talent,” Vatansever said. “She showed that to everybody where the crowd wants her to be on the court. Someone gets into foul trouble and the crowd starts calling, ‘Dana! Dana!’ and you feel that. She has something. That three-point shot is amazing and she can knock it down anytime.”
There is also the harsh reality in the WNBA — development is expedited, given there are only 12 teams and roster spots for each one respectively. Evans’ next step in her development is improving as a facilitator and not getting targeted by other teams’ offenses when they try to create mismatches on switches. During her exit interview with Wade, he told her she needed to get stronger. If she is able to do that, it’ll lessen the burden when teams throw double staggers and body shattering screens in pick-and-roll actions in her direction.
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Like any young player, Evans will also need more playing time to establish the habits she has been building. In the 401 minutes she played last season, only 201 came after June 10, after Julie Allemand arrived following her season overseas. Allemand fit the prototype of a pass-first point guard comparable to Vandersloot and received more playing time on a star-laden Sky team because of it.
After that first game of the season where she scored a career-high 24 points, Evans struggled with not getting as many minutes on the floor. She took the time on the sidelines and in practice to learn behind Vandersloot, but also hadn’t been a bench player before her WNBA career. One thing that helped her through it was Chicago’s fan base, who has quickly taken Evans in as one of their own.
“It was really challenging for me just not getting into games,” Evans said. “I’ve never been on a team where I just didn’t get in. That never happened to me so I will say our fans…they helped me through it. Hearing them say my name and cheer me through tough times…that meant a lot to me. That was pretty dope but I think it also kept me going.”
Depending on how the offseason takes shape, Evans could be a crucial part to the Sky’s 2023 outlook. Vandersloot, Candace Parker, Azurá Stevens, Emma Meesseman and Allie Quigley are all unrestricted free agents (Rebekah Gardner is a reserved free agent as well). If the band doesn’t want to get back together for a reunion tour, Evans could provide meaningful minutes for the next iteration of the Sky. She could also be a lethal heat check artist coming off the bench if most of those players return. All she knows is she is ready to take that next step in what could be a long career in the WNBA.
“I want to be on the court and show what I can do,” Evans said during media exit interviews. “I want to be a factor. I don’t want to just be a cheerleader on the bench. I want to be in the game. I want to play.”