Warriors' Jacob Evans hoping maturity cultivates breakout second NBA season


SAN FRANCISCO - Walking into the Warriors' Team Shop, Jacob Evans had a simple directive for five kids.

"Get whatever you want." 

Evans' goal Thursday afternoon was simple: stuff each student's bag with $5,000 worth of merchandise. Over the next hour -- in the shadow of Golden State's crown jewel Chase Center -- Jacob will actively interact, make shirts and hoop with kids from Bessie Carmichael school -- an institution that services low-income students that have been overlooked in an ever-changing city -- matching the maturation Evans hopes to make on the court this season. 

Last summer, Warriors general manager Bob Myers selected Evans with the No. 28 overall pick in part because he thought Evans could contribute right away. Instead, Evans played just 204 regular-season minutes, spending most of his time in the G League, averaging 11.3 points and 3.4 rebounds with the Santa Cruz Warriors. 

When he was with the big club, the extent of his action was spent with Golden State assistant Willie Green, shooting in empty arenas two hours before tip-off, working to get more arc on his flat jumper. A ligament tear -- stemming from college in his right index finger -- impeded his progress. 

"It was up and down," Evans recalls. "I would say for the most part [for] me ups. I would say it was down at first and then it kind of went up." 

Worse, Evans began to peer towards the internet, browsing the coverage of his rookie season. 

"People say they don't read," Evans said. "I don't know, me being a young guy I'm on social media a lot so you're going to see people tweet or being on Instagram."

"You get Instagram DM from a fan," Evans added. "But you also get those fans that are still DM'ing you, they're like 'Man I'm still rooting for you, keep working hard.' So it's like I get comments from both sides but you've just always got to take, there's always going to be negative that comes with the positive and vice versa.

"So I just take it for what it's for, it's part of the game that we come with. It's a very, it's a game where everyone is on social media, the world is like a big coach or whatever now, so that's just what it is."

Adding to Evans' angst, first-round picks like Trae Young, Collin Sexton, and DeAndre Ayton each carved out a niche on their new teams, while Evans spent most of his time watching. Throughout his first year, he began to compare himself to the rest of his draft class. 

"I mean yeah you always do, you always do," Evans said. "Those are the people you were going against, following up to the track or whatever. Just looking at those guys and they're able to get out there and showcase." 

Evans' lowest point came following a 125-98 loss to the Boston Celtics in early March. After the game, Evans spoke for hours with his brother Demarquis, who put Jacob's season in perspective.

"Really, to be honest, you are in the perfect situation right now bro," Demarquis said. "You've got Hall of Famers left and right, you can look to the left you've got a Hall of Famer, you can look to the right, straight in front, you've got a Hall of Famer. Pick their brains, do what you do best. Learn from them."

Now, Evans finds himself a part of a much different team than the one he inhabited as a rookie. No longer championship favorites, they will be without stalwarts Klay Thompson (knee surgery), Durant (sign and trade to the Brooklyn Nets) and Andre Iguodala (traded to the Memphis Grizzlies) to open the 2019-20 NBA season.

"It's a little different walking in the gym," Evans admitted. "It's like man, there are only two people who were here last year. That's life, also the beauty of it, also it's like a new group, different energy, younger, different similar personalities across the board."

"Because that age thing, it's not 27, 28, guys with kids," he added. "It's like a lot of 24, 24 younger guys. It's like, that part of it is really really really exciting and really fun. I'm looking forward to it, but it's a lot different than last year for sure."

For now, Evans attention is turned to the kids, who seem to be having a ball at his expense. About five minutes into the shopping spree, Makayla -- a third-grader -- already has her eyes on a Mitchell and Ness "Run TMC" era throwback jacket. 

“My dad would love this," she says.  

Evans' deed is extra special for this batch of kids. In 2019, San Francisco's homeless population ballooned to nearly 10,000 people. Of the population at Bessie Carmichael -- which serves pre-K to eighth-grade in the city's SOMA district -- 20 percent of the students are or have experienced homelessness. 

"I think that just makes them feel so wanted and so loved, you know, this is an experience," said Sean Smith, a Restorative Practices Coach at San Francisco Unified School District, who joined the kids during the day. "I don't think any of them had ever imagined would happen to them. And it's just so cool. It's great to know that people care".

[RELATED: What Klay Thompson said to Kevin Durant about re-signing with Warriors]

Throughout the spree -- which Evans bankrolled out of his own pocket -- the guard indulged the kids at every stop. In the store, he picked out hats and jackets for the kids, signing merchandise, even letting the kids personalize the shirt he wore on his back, making his investment all the more special.

"This is probably the most fun I've ever had spending money," Evans said. "It's a lot better when you're not looking for stuff. You can just like 'all right, you all go ahead, and then just come back to me.' That was cool. But, no, this is the most fun I've had in a long time shopping."

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