If an NBA team is in need of a prolific rebounder, Reggie Evans is ready and waiting.
The former Iowa forward from 2001-2002 has averaged 7.1 rebounds per game over his 13-year NBA career, and has the second-best career rebound percentage in league history. Although he hasn’t suited up for an NBA squad since the 2014-15 season, Evans isn’t ready to hang up his headband just yet.
“I’m still working out and waiting on an opportunity to present itself,” he said. “In the meantime, being home has provided me with more time to give back to the community.”
For Evans, 36, home is Pensacola, Florida. He grew up in a single-parent household, and while he didn’t grow up with the luxuries afforded to those in higher-income households, the former Hawkeye said he and his mom made the most of everything they had.
After he made it to the NBA, Evans wanted a way to give back to the people in the Florida panhandle. With that in mind, the former Hawkeye started The Reggie Evans Foundation — an organization committed to improving the lives of people in the Pensacola area.
Through the foundation, he has hosted charity softball games, helped collect donations for victims of natural disasters, created opportunities for kids to participate in youth basketball, and has provided food to those in need.
“Whenever I’ve been around Reggie Evans, it hasn’t been about Reggie Evans, the NBA star. It’s been about the people of Pensacola and how he can give back,” Pensacola Mayor Ashton Hayward told The Washington Post in Jan. 2016.
Since Nov. 2013, Evans has held an annual turkey giveaway every Thanksgiving. In the first two years, he gave away 400 turkeys, and in 2015 and 2016, he doubled the impact by giving away 800 turkeys, plus a can of green beans and a box of stuffing.
Last year, the former Hawkeye started Team Evans, an AAU basketball team, and the Reggie Evans Recreational Basketball League. The recreational hoops league is offered for boys and girls ranging from 5- to 10-years old, and had enough kids to field 46 teams in its first year.
“I was the only person to ever make it to the NBA in my city,” he said. “I wanted to come back to my hometown and the city I love and motivate these kids. If you believe in your dreams, you can make it. When people tell you, ‘No,’ use that as motivation. Coming back home and giving back to my community was the right thing to do.”
When Evans started the youth basketball programs, he didn’t want to simply be a figurehead and financial supporter. The kids playing on his AAU team and in his league committed to him, and the former Hawkeye wanted to show the kids he was committed to them, as well.
“A lot of pro players will attach their name to something, but you never see them,” Evans said. “I want the kids to know me, know I’m part of this, and know I want to see the team succeed.”
Evans joined the Hawkeyes after spending the first two years of his collegiate basketball career at Coffeyville Community College in Kansas. He made an instant impact for the Black & Gold, setting the Hawkeyes single-season records for double doubles (22), rebounds (416), free throw attempts (346), and made free throws (218).
He played a pivotal role in helping Iowa win four games in four days at the 2001 Big Ten Tournament, earning the Hawkeyes a birth in the NCAA tourney. He averaged 16 points and 12.8 boards in the 2001 conference tournament and was named the Most Outstanding Player.
The former Hawkeye is the last Big Ten player to lead the league in rebounding in back-to-back seasons, and his 95 career rebounds in the Big Ten Tournament remains the all-time record.
Evans averaged 15.3 points during his two seasons with the Hawkeyes, scoring 1,054 points in just 69 career games. His 40 career double doubles ranks fourth-most in team history, and his 794 total rebounds is the 10th-best mark among players who wore the Iowa uniform.
“That was the best time of my life — literally the best time,” Evans said of his time at Iowa. “That time at Iowa was better than the NBA, and better than junior college and high school. That was such as beautiful two years around so many great people. I never saw one negative person in Iowa City. That was very different for me.”
No one picked the Iowa forward in the 2002 NBA Draft, but he has gone on to enjoy a long career in the league. Evans has played for Seattle, Denver, Philadelphia, Toronto, Los Angeles (Clippers), Brooklyn, and Sacramento, averaging 4.1 points and 7.1 rebounds per game in his 809 NBA games.
Today, the former Hawkeye is a married father of four. He met his wife Joi at Iowa and the couple has three girls and a boy.
Although Evans has been able to put a lot of focus into his foundation and giving back to Pensacola, he’s still pushing to get back to the NBA. As long as his body continues to hold up, he said he could probably play for another two years.
“I want to show I can still play against high-caliber players,” he said. “At the end of the day, I want to be remembered as a guy who laid it all out there and had a lot of love for the game of basketball.”
There’s little doubt he’ll be remembered as someone who gave his all — both on and off the court.