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Just because Team Tyreke thinks big doesn't mean they don't enjoy the small stuff.
And considering Rookie of the Month awards can only be a natural path to the Rookie of the Year honor that Kings guard Tyreke Evans and his support system so badly want him to win, today's announcement that Evans is two-for-two in that department is a pretty good start. Milwaukee's Brandon Jennings was the Eastern Conference Rookie of the Month for the second straight time as well, although Evans is seen as the clear frontrunner in this race by most - if not all - media.
Evans averaged 22.1 points (47.6 percent shooting), 5.3 rebounds, 5.1 assists, 1.62 steals and 35.5 minutes per game in December. He is averaging 20.1 points, 5.1 rebounds and 4.9 assists on the season, putting him just a shade away from the elite class of 20-5-5 rookies that only includes Michael Jordan, Oscar Robertson and LeBron James. Cleveland's Mike Brown and Memphis' Lionel Hollins were Eastern and Western Conference Coaches of the Month, respectively.
For those who missed it, we discussed Team Tyreke and the Blueprint they have for the 20-year-old in Sunday's paper. I had been meaning to share some material that didn't make it in the story, so this is as good a time as any.
Specifically, the tragic death of Evans' father, John Holmes, to a heart attack four years ago was only barely mentioned in the piece. As I reported on the story, I was curious to learn more about their relationship in light of the fact that his brothers had acted in fatherly roles for so long.
Truth be told, I assumed that the siblings stepping up in that way was largely because of some void between Evans and his father. But as his mother, Bonita Evans, told me while sitting courtside at Arco Arena last week, that wasn't the case at all.
She described the night that Holmes died, and lamented the fact that he was never able to see Tyreke make it to the big-time.
"Tyreke was on the bed having a beautiful conversation with his father (on the night he died)," Bonita Evans said. "After Tyreke went to New York, that's when he lost his father. They'd been talking about (basketball), he was telling him to go do what you've got to do. He hugged him, kissed him, told him he loved him and that was the last time he got to see his father."
Tyreke said he knows his dad would be proud of him now.
"He was everything I could ever ask for from a dad," Tyreke said. "I was upset (when he passed) but I got over it. I just kept fighting through it and working hard because I know that's what he would want me to do at the end of the day."
Bonita, who has previously passed on interviews for stories, could not have been a more delightful lady. Predictably, she and Grandma Alice (who was visiting Tyreke as well) were oozing with pride at how their boys had watched over Tyreke all these years.
And while second-oldest brother, Reggie, was the one who spotted Tyreke's talent earlier than the rest (he was his coach as a glorified toddler, after all), his mother said it wasn't hard to see what Tyreke could become. He had a strong desire to get better from an early age as well.
"I used to fuss with him, say 'Get in this house and out of that snow,'" Bonita said. "They'd be out there balling (in Chester, Pa.), guys trying to beat him and they couldn't beat him. And I'm thinking, 'Oh my God these boys are going to get sick out here in this weather."
Tyreke was dominating from an early age, and he admitted there were times when he coasted because the competition couldn't even keep up when he was in third gear.
"(High school) wasn't pushing me," he said. "I was just waiting to get (to college) so I can make the next step. When I got to college, I was playing hard every possession. Guys in college work hard...you can play zone, it's harder to score in college. Memphis was a good team, good crowd out there, sold out every night."
The pros have pushed him even harder.
"It's the best feeling just going up against the guys you've been watching for a while now, and guys I've been going up against (in the NBA) - even if it's a backup point guard - they play hard," Tyreke said. "It's a challenge to go out there every night, especially when you've got (New Orleans') Chris Paul and (San Antonio's) Tony Parker and those types of guys. If you don't have a good game against them, you get mad at yourself because of how you want to play.
"I obviously turned it on and off when I wanted to (in high school), that's what a lot of people would say. But (his focus, intensity and energy) is up every time I step on the court (now). In high school, you'd play a good team and be up one night and then play a terrible team and feel like, 'Ah, I don't feel like playing tonight.' People would be like, 'You should've scored 50.' And I'd be like, 'I played hard, but it's not the same as playing against the top teams.'"
With so much of the story focusing on everyone around Tyreke, he was hardly heard from. One question I wanted answered, though, was whether he was completely on board with this elaborate approach or whether he ever wished Team Tyreke would just let him go it alone. Tyreke said he sees his family, trainer Lamont Peterson and childhood friend/roommate Dwayne Davis as much-needed support, even if the quarters are a bit cramped in his Natomas townhouse.
"It's never got to the point where I said, 'Give me my space,' but I'll tell them if I'm not feeling it," Tyreke said. "We have communication. If they think something is good for me and I don't, they say, Alright, at the end of the day you make the decision.' And if it doesn't go right, don't say we didn't tell you. That's how they look at it." - Sam Amick