Photo: Bakari Evelyn speaks to the media during Wednesday’s media availability at Carver-Hawkeye Arena.
By John Bohnenkamp
IOWA CITY — Bakari Evelyn’s basketball journey will end at Iowa.
And he has found his way to a place where he’s going to be needed.
Evelyn joined the Hawkeyes as a graduate transfer. One year to make a difference for a team that needs an experienced guard.
The Hawkeyes needed one anyway, with Isaiah Moss leaving to play his grad transfer year at Kansas and Maishe Dailey transferring to Akron. But Jordan Bohannon’s hip surgery has left him questionable heading into the season, so Evelyn is an important piece for a backcourt that is otherwise young.
He’s not concerned about that, though.
“I’m not really sure of Jordan’s status,” Evelyn said on Wednesday during a media availability at Carver-Hawkeye Arena. “I came here to fill any role Coach asks me.”
It is a career with so many curves. He played three seasons at Southfield (Mich.) Christian High School before playing his senior year at Hillcrest (Ariz.) Academy. Evelyn signed with Nebraska, played there for a season, then transferred to Valparaiso.
And now he’s at Iowa, and that experience may prove to be crucial.
“Yeah, I’ve definitely been on the move a little bit,” Evelyn said. “But it’s definitely been a fun one. I’ve learned a lot through all of my experiences. I think it’s helped me be here. I’ve been through the ringer, I’ve been around a little bit. I’ve been seasoned a little bit.”
Evelyn is coming off an injury-filled career at Valpo, with bone spurs in his right ankle that eventually required surgery before last season. He averaged just 8.4 points with the Crusaders last season.
“Last season, I was still dealing with some things,” Evelyn said.. “I was really coming fresh off (the surgery).
“I feel physically great. Probably the best I’ve ever felt in my college career.”
Evelyn decided he wanted to find a new home for his final season of eligibility. Iowa coach Fran McCaffery and assistant coach Sherman Dillard recruited Evelyn in high school, so there wasn’t much of a learning curve.
Evelyn visited New Mexico State and Iowa.
“I think it was a combination of things,” Evelyn said when asked why he chose Iowa. “It was the opportunity. It was the relationship I had with Coach Dillard and Coach Fran, them recruiting me before when I was in high school. Just the opportunity to be in the Big Ten, to be with a winning team, to have a chance to do good things this year.”
There is a family connection to the Big Ten. His father, Gerald, attended Michigan State. His mother, Sandee Stone, went to Ohio State.
“In some ways, it was bound to happen (to be back in the Big Ten),” Evelyn said.
Evelyn, at 6-foot-2, has been working at both guard spots with the Hawkeyes.
“It doesn’t really matter,” he said. “I’ve been accustomed to having the ball in my hands, playing at Valparaiso the last few years. But I can play off the ball, and that’s something we’ve been working on this summer.”
The last two weeks have been about fitting in with the rest of the Hawkeyes. Evelyn said it was “a good fit.”
“They’ve really welcomed me,” he said. “I’m definitely part of the team, but I still feel new here.”
It’s one year to play what looks to be a big role.
“I think just I bring experience,” Evelyn said. “Also, just a playmaking scorer. Whatever they need.”
The Hawkeyes will definitely need all of that.