Rough upbringing builds character, heart in guard

By Drew Thomas, Advocate Staff

Sports help athletes put their focus on something constructive and are therapeutic for those who didn’t have a normal life growing up.

Comet sophomore guard Steven Evans brings with him a hard-working mentality and versatility that fits the Comet basketball culture. Evans grew up idolizing for Los Angeles Laker Kobe Bryant and faced his own adversities in life.

“I’ve always been the only white player on my teams. It’s nothing to me,” he said. “I loved playing basketball as a kid because it took me away from my problems.”

Born here in San Pablo, the 24-year- old moved all over the Bay Area with his mother and three brothers.

Watching his brothers go in and out of jail made him try to stay out of trouble.

Evans said it was hectic growing up, especially being the youngest and always having to look over his shoulder. “I just wanted to play basketball, take care of school and do something positive instead,” he said.

With his mother released from jail and in a rehabilitation program, his family had to live and follow rules on Treasure Island in San Francisco for a year. After that situation, they moved to Vallejo before getting kicked out of their housing there, which forced them to stay in motels for a couple of months.

“I didn’t think nothing back then,” he said. “It felt normal.”

Comet coach Miguel Johnson said that Evans’ background wasn’t a pretty one, but that he’s done a lot to get himself in a better position in life.

Evans liked to help the community by traveling to Mexico and building houses for the poor as a member of the Young Life Christian group based in El Sobrante. He participated in the El Sobrante Stroll by setting up booths and taking everything down.

After going off to college, he returned to the Boys and Girls Club in El Sobrante for about two years working as the team director. Evans ran the sports program, refereed youth basketball, and participated in the El Sobrante clean-up. He also helped with programs such as Money Matters, which showed students how to take care of their money, and Backpack to Briefcases, which assisted high school students in going to college.

All those efforts were acknowledged after winning a youth of the year award for being a community leader.

He graduated from De Anza High School in 2012 and is now looking to continue his education at Contra Costa College by taking automotive classes after recently receiving a bachelor’s degree in business, with honors, at Holy Names University in Oakland.

Evans said that he figures having a business degree gives him more opportunities and that he is currently in the automotive program to be independent when having car troubles.

“I want to be able to fix my own car and not rely on anyone else,” he said.

Following high school graduation, he thought about coming to CCC after being recruited by one of the coaches here, but he chose a four-year college instead.

While being a freshmen at Holy Names, he could attend classes, practice with the team, suit up, but wasn’t allowed to compete in games. He said his first year was ruined because of registration problems. Next semester Evans took more time off helping his mom and couldn’t come back the following seasons due to coaching issues.

“Not playing at Holy Names killed me because I knew I could play there and I was practicing,” Evans said. “It made me kind of second guess myself a little bit. That made me think it was me.”

He didn’t fit the type of guard the coach was looking for and he didn’t believe in him.

“I had to take a step back and just realize that I’ve just got to keep going,” Evans said. “I can’t let him or nobody else stop me. Just got to keep grinding.”

The decision to attend both schools and work graveyard shifts for the Auto Warehousing Company, in Richmond, while playing basketball was tough for him last year.

Forward Demond Washington said being at a four-year college and coming back to junior college should put a chip on anybody’s shoulder. “Essentially it’s your last two years to prove yourself to get a scholarship and if you don’t it’ll be your last playing basketball on a competitive level,” he said.

“In a sense you’re trying to prove to your coaches and others recruiting you why you should be back at a four-year college,” Washington said.

Johnson said Evans just came into the gym and wanted an opportunity to play.

“He showed up, worked hard and made the best out of an opportunity,” the Comet coach said.

“I wanted to go somewhere comfortable and felt it was a good fit for me,” Evans said.

No longer working, he now sets his sights on school and playing basketball.

Johnson said Evans is a guy who does the dirty work, he’s going to stick out, and do what he needs to do to win.