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Utah Jazz: Action-packed summer for Jeremy Evans

Published: Saturday, Aug. 1 2015 12:26 p.m. MDT

Jazz forward Jeremy Evans slaps hands with kids as he conducts a clinic for Jr. Jazz members in Dugway, Monday, June 18, 2012. (Ravell Call, Deseret News) Jazz forward Jeremy Evans slaps hands with kids as he conducts a clinic for Jr. Jazz members in Dugway, Monday, June 18, 2012. (Ravell Call, Deseret News)

DUGWAY — This is a big summer for Jeremy Evans.

For one thing, Evans' basketball future will be decided when the Utah Jazz or another NBA team signs the restricted free agent this July.

For another, this week he's having fun traveling around Utah and Nevada to teach, play hoops and have fun with kids for the third straight year with the Junior Jazz's barnstorming tour.

Arguably, those aren't the biggest events of this offseason, either.

Not only is the 24-year-old getting married, but he's also getting his braces off — both life-changing, memorable moments in their own right.

One thing he isn't doing this summer?

Kids cheer during a relay game as Jeremy Evans conducts a clinic for Jr. Jazz members in Dugway on Monday. (Ravell Call, Deseret News) Kids cheer during a relay game as Jeremy Evans conducts a clinic for Jr. Jazz members in Dugway on Monday. (Ravell Call, Deseret News)

Worrying.

Not about wedding details. He's letting his fiancée take care of the majority of this summer's big event in Georgia.

"I'm going to stay out of it," Evans said, adding with a smile, "but if she needs me, I'm there."

He isn't concerned about bouncing around remote locations to hang with kids. Jazz youth programs coordinator Nate Martinez is there to guide him around the vast region and help with the driving, and Evans and his college sweetheart/bride-to-be Korrie Walters are soaking in the diverse scenery from West Wendover to Kanab and having a blast with youngsters.

Jazz forward Jeremy Evans does pushups with kids as he conducts a clinic for Jr. Jazz members in Dugway on Monday.   (Ravell Call, Deseret News) Jazz forward Jeremy Evans does pushups with kids as he conducts a clinic for Jr. Jazz members in Dugway on Monday. (Ravell Call, Deseret News)

"I just like coming out. I didn't have a chance to meet an NBA player really when I was younger or (do) something like this," Evans said in Dugway's community gym this week after a delightful hour-plus clinic with a few dozen youngsters. "(I like) just to come out and make their day or even make (somebody's) lifetime. They'll always remember this. I think it's fun. It's an opportunity that everybody doesn't get."

He's not even fretting about his uncertain professional future. Jazz brass have spoken highly about him and expressed a desire to bring him back, but you never know what's going to happen until a contract is in hand (from the Jazz or, say, Portland).

On top of that, Evans is leaning on the Big Basketball Fan in the sky.

"I always go to church. I look to God," Evans said. "I believe He has everything under control. I'm just waiting to see what's going to happen."

Jazz forward Jeremy Evans plays one on one with Emma Allred as he conducts a clinic for Jr. Jazz members in Dugway, Monday, June 18, 2012. (Ravell Call, Deseret News) Jazz forward Jeremy Evans plays one on one with Emma Allred as he conducts a clinic for Jr. Jazz members in Dugway, Monday, June 18, 2012. (Ravell Call, Deseret News)

Evans' preference is to stay put. The Jazz drafted him in the second round two years ago as an unheralded player out of Western Kentucky, and he's put on a dazzling display of athleticism and energy in his rare playing opportunities.

Evans has also gotten to highlight his high-flying slamming skills — from finishing off alley-oops from Earl Watson to winning the 2012 NBA Slam Dunk crown in February after being an injury fill-in at the last moment.

Evans would love to help the Jazz jump into a bright future with the young, exciting core the franchise has put together the last couple of years.

"I'd love to be back with the Jazz," Evans said. "Hopefully, I'm around for the future — Gordon (Hayward), Derrick (Favors), Alec (Burks) and Enes (Kanter). I know they'll be around, and I'd love to play with them."

For that matter, Evans would love to play. Period.

In his rookie season of 2010-11, Evans saw action in 49 Jazz games. But this past year playing behind the likes of Josh Howard, C.J. Miles and Hayward, the bouncy Evans only saw time in 29 outings for 7.5 minutes a night compared to 9.4 mpg his first season.

"Just to win a dunk competition, that really doesn't mean too much as far as playing time," Evans said. "I want to get that role of being in the game, earning minutes and being able to play. That's how I want to be known."

Speaking of being known, Evans smiles that he can no longer roam the country — in itty-bitty Utah towns or in random places like malls and gyms — without being recognized since winning the dunk contest.

"You never think somebody will notice you and all of a sudden they say your name and ask for an autograph or something," he said. "That's crazy."

The forward was in a mall one day when a young kid told his mom that Evans was the dunk champion. She didn't believe him until Evans did a windmill slam over her in the food court. (OK, not really, but she did need convincing.)

This spring, Evans joked with his buddies that they should try to hustle some basketball players in a gym in Biloxi, Miss. Evans thought, "They aren't going to know who I am."

The plan was short-lived.

"A couple of my fellas (and I) went in there and they knew right off the bat who I was," Evans said, laughing. "No hustling."

The newfound fame hasn't gone to Evans' head, though.

"He's still Jeremy," his friendly bride Korrie said. "He's humble."

And Evans is still the happy-go-lucky fella from Arkansas who loves painting, drawing, carving, playing the guitar and video games and racing remote control cars when he isn't working (or eating popcorn and laughing with Hayward and teammates before Jazz games).

The Jazz couldn't ask for a better representative on the road, either. Between encouraging kids to listen to their parents and go to school, he plays and laughs with the youths of all ages like they were his siblings.

"He is awesome," Martinez said. "All the players are great, but he is personal with them. He genuinely enjoys doing it. It's pretty fun to see the way he interacts with them."

To answer some of the kids' questions they asked Evans: No, he has never met Carlos Boozer; No, he can't autograph your arm (or any part of your skin); Michael Jordan and Shaquille O'Neal were his favorite players growing up (and Shaq is the player he'd be the most afraid to play against); Yes, he tried being a soccer goalie in junior high ("But the balls were coming at me SO fast!"); He's won "a lot" of games; shoe size: 15; and, no, he hasn't played for another NBA team ("Hopefully," he added, "I'll be here next year. We'll see.")

(If you're wondering, the 6-9 Evans is one foot and four inches taller than his 5-foot-5 girlfriend of six years. "I sometimes have to tell him to step back when we're talking," she said, laughing, "because I have to look up.")

As for his day job, Evans points to needing to build up confidence as being a big factor in making that next leap in the NBA. He believes his ball-handling skills will continue to improve, which should help.

"You just have to go out and do it," he said. "You can't just say it."

Evans said it's "weird" to think of leaving Utah, but he's well aware that could happen this summer.

"I know it comes with the territory and the job, but you come here, meet friends, meet people … the Jazz staff," he said. "It feels like a home and a family, but I may have to leave."

That's where he puts trust in God and in his agent to help make the right things fall into place.

"Whatever happens, happens," he said. "I know it's going to work out for the best."

In the meantime, he'll continue his 12-stop tour de Jazzland, which still includes visits in Cedar City, Bryce Valley, Escalante, Salina and Beaver on Thursday and Friday.

While doing these clinics, Evans has likely seen more of Utah than most Utahns.

Name a remote town in the Beehive State, and he's probably played hoops there.

"I've seen a lot," he said. "I wish I could sometimes put my family in my pocket and let them see what I see. Of course, you can take the camcorder around, but it's not the same. It's amazing the stuff you see out here."

Now Evans only hopes the Jazz management values him as much as the Junior Jazz kids do.

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