Syracuse senior attack Jordan Evans primed for special senior year
Hannah Wagner | Staff Photographer
UPDATED: Feb. 17, 2017 at 1:13 p.m.
It is shaping up to be The Year. The Year of turning selflessness into production, of limiting turnovers while commanding the quarterback role, of fulfilling the load that fell on him four years ago. Yet over the last few weeks, Jordan Evans didn’t outline a specific plan. He didn’t jot down a single statistical goal. He hardly chatted with former Syracuse attacks about what’s at stake for him in 2017, or how to tackle his last season after three that didn’t quite meet the hype.
In late January, television cameras and reporters circled around him in Manley Field House’s Trophy Hall, a few steps from a shrine to SU lacrosse greats. There, Evans shrugged off the expectations that accompany a No. 22 in his fourth year. How much pressure do you feel to be the guy? Will you be able to follow in Dylan Donahue’s footsteps? How are you going to score more?
But tucked inside the 5-foot-10, 169-pound attack is a fire, kindled by disappointment that’s fueled him. He knows the responsibilities. All of them. He knows the relentless dodger he needs to be, the facilitator for a team amid its longest-ever national title drought, the pilot of the offense so vital to SU’s motion around the goal. The elder statesmen of the Syracuse attack is now central to No. 6 Syracuse’s (1-0) title hopes in 2017. This is, after all, The Year.
“He’s got to step into a whole new role,” SU head coach John Desko said. “This year, he’s got to be the top guy. He’s extremely knowledgeable of our offenses, man-ups and so on, so that will help him. He’s got to take that next step and be a threat at the end of the field.”
Evan Jenkins | Staff Photographer
Desko offered Evans the venerable No. 22 when he reached his sophomore year of high school, and Evans reminded onlookers of that potential last Saturday when he hung seven career highs, including points, shots and shots on goal. For the top-ranked class of 2013 recruit out of Jamesville-DeWitt High School, the pressure still endures.
The fact that he wears the same number as SU All-Americans Gary Gait, Charlie Lockwood and the Powell brothers only adds to that pressure. Even though others have compared him to the Powells, Evans has not earned such honors; he didn’t even appear on this year’s preseason All-ACC team. Evans could be only the second SU player to wear No. 22 since 1988 and not capture a national title.
Knee injuries nagged during Evans’ first two seasons at SU and cut short any sort of momentum he may have built. He scored only 11 goals in those years, when he played midfield and defense. As a junior attack in 2016, he turned the ball over a team-high 27 times. The same number of goals in the same campaign seemed a step forward, but placed fifth on the team.
Despite his underwhelming past, teams recognize Evans as a threat. Five goals in an NCAA tournament game his sophomore year proved that. At his best, he’s aggressive. Ball in stick, head forward, quick burst to the goal. It’s the formula he stuck to in high school that led to scored more than 400 points. Five days ago, he flashed the same skill set in SU’s blowout win over Siena.
“Once he takes the weight off his shoulders,” former midfielder Derek DeJoe said, “that’s when he’s going to start having eight points a game.”
Evans’ education provides him with an edge. He can suck up information and process it before defenses slide over. Evans, who already has accepted a full-time job at the investment bank Goldman Sachs, might be the smartest player on SU. His influencers, DeJoe, Tim Barber and Donahue, helped sculpt that skill set over the last three years.
“He has some of the best vision I’ve ever seen,” said DeJoe, who’s played with SU All-Americans Kevin Rice and Donahue.
One of the smoothest players Desko’s had in recent years, Evans can go left or right equally. He can wrap around defenders, shake up the set and accelerate behind the cage. He now seems to have a firm grasp on managing the offense, aware of when to dodge, when to dish and when to burst toward the goal. If he’s going to put it all together, this is The Year.
“Everybody has for the last three years been expecting big things from certain people, like myself,” Evans said. “It’s already expected as to what I should be doing.
“I’ve been waiting for this.”
CORRECTION: In a previous version of this post, Derek DeJoe’s former position was misstated. The Daily Orange regrets this error.
Published on February 16, 2017 at 12:16 am