Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images
Dana Evans loves the left side of the floor, something she credits to the years of teams forcing her that way as a young guard learning the game.
Despite Evans’ right hand being dominant, her left hand is where she’s comfortable. So much so that coach/general manager James Wade and his third-year guard have had discussions about getting her to go right more.
But don’t be mistaken, Evans doesn’t live in her comfort zone. She’s a student of the game, constantly chasing ways to improve. After spending her first two seasons in the WNBA classroom, biding her time behind one of the league’s greats, Evans has an opportunity to step to the front of the class.
What she’s about to present has all the makings of a breakout season.
“I always want to be helpful out there,” Evans said. “That’s why I’ve been working on so many different parts of my game. So I don’t give anyone an opportunity to say ‘Well, she can’t do this. Or, she’s not that good at this.’ ”
Evans is fueled by the doubters. It’s a characteristic she shares with 2021 WNBA Finals MVP Kahleah Copper. So, this year’s free-agency departures which included her professor in guard studies, Courtney Vandersloot, has them headed into training camp on a full tank.
For the first time in over 10 years, backcourt roles are not solidified for the Sky.
While, yes, Wade’s training camps always have been competitive, the starting point-guard position was set. This year, Wade filled the holes left by his championship-winning veterans with young, promising talent.
When Evans looks at the Sky’s restructured roster she sees an opportunity. Her approach however will remain the same.
“Everything seems kind of wide open,” Evans said. “[I’m] going in there with the same mentality I’ve always gone into something with. I’m going to put my head down and work as hard as I can.”
After her second season in the WNBA, in which she averaged 4.3 points and 1.2 assists over 11.5 minutes, Evans was intent on improving certain areas of her game overseas. She’s aware of certain hot takes that defined her game as one-dimensional. According to some, she’s a shooter and that’s it.
Evans, despite limited time on the floor, has shown flashes of her ability as a facilitator coupled with an antagonizing defensive prowess. For Besiktas JK Istanbul, Evans has averaged a team-high 23.8 points and 5.8 assists playing nearly 40 minutes a game.
The circumstances of Evans’ first two professional seasons offered her a unique opportunity to study Vandersloot’s game up close. And while Evans prides herself on being a student of the game, her method for development was never to mirror Vandersloot’s style of play. Instead, she has studied multiple backcourt greats strategically learning how to blend aspects of their game with a unique style of her own.
“I would watch how [Vandersloot] did things,” Evans said. “If I wasn’t on the court, during games I was paying attention to how she runs the team, gets pocket passes, when she throws the pocket pass. It’s all about -timing. But also, being true to myself as well because I’m not Sloot.”
She might not be Vandersloot but in her minimal minutes, Evans has garnered adoration similar to the Sky’s former floor general who spent her first 12 seasons in Chicago.
That love was on full display in the Sky’s home opener last season when Evans dropped a career-high 24 points to go with her five assists and four steals playing alongside Vandersloot in the Sky’s starting lineup. A greater reflection of fans’ love for the guard from Gary, Indiana, was in games when “put Dana in,” chants echoed throughout Wintrust Arena as she sat on the bench.
“It’s so motivating and encouraging to have people believe in you already when you haven’t done a lot in the league,” Evans said. “I’ll be honest, there were times when they picked me up.”
Evans admits her limited opportunities in Years 1 and 2 were challenging. How could they not be for a player fueled by chances to prove the naysayers wrong?
But for a consummate student such as -Evans, her first two seasons in the WNBA were anything but a waste. In 2023 everything Evans has learned and all that she has worked to develop will be showcased as never before.