Dennis Evans III wouldn’t change a thing.
Not the consistent beating he took for years from bigger, stronger players while playing up three divisions at every tournament. Not the underrated feeling despite being one of the tallest (7'1") players in the country. And certainly not that one time he came up on the short end of an infamous highlight clip.
“Especially that,” Evans says. “That moment motivated me so much.”
Three years ago, while parked under the basket guarding an inbounds pass, Evans fell victim to a Mikey Williams poster dunk that went viral.
The reason for the popularity of the clip was twofold: For years, Williams has been the most famous high school athlete in the country, with 3.6 million Instagram followers, and, well, the dunk was picturesque with Evans tumbling to the ground as pandemonium ensued in the gym.
Evans had only started playing basketball a year and a half before the dunk and had recently been moved up in order to push himself against better competition.
“At first, I was pretty mad about it,” Evans says. “It was so much I didn’t know about the game at that point, but I knew I wanted to get better. That moment really made me want to improve as a shot blocker, and when I started to do that, I started to improve my offensive game.”
That determined grind has catapulted Evans into being one of the top players in the 2023 class at the ripe age of 16.
Evans’s combination of length and timing has made him arguably the country’s top shot blocker. He’s got great feel and presence as a rebounder and in the paint on the offensive end, plus boasts an efficient stroke from the perimeter.
That’s got everyone from Kentucky to Kansas, Florida State and UCLA, among many others, all giving chase.
This past season, Evans averaged 17 points, 12 rebounds and eight blocks for Hillcrest (Riverside, Calif.). This spring, he’s pumping in 16 points, 14 rebounds and 10 blocks a game for Team Inland (Calif.).
Last week, Evans made the final cut for the USA Men’s U-17 World Cup team, which will compete in Malaga, Spain, July 2–10.
“He’s the best center in the country,” Team Inland coach Elvert “Kool-Aid” Perry says. “He’s the next great big because he can beat you in so many different ways, and he’s only getting better. It’s really scary. Right after that game when he got dunked on in 2019, I took him outside and said, ‘Dennis, you’re gonna be the top-10 player in this class and a top-three draft pick. Remember that.’ He’s put in the work to be the best.”
Five days a week at 6 a.m. for the last three years, Evans has never missed a workout, according to Perry.
“I love the process of getting better,” Evans says. “When you start to see those results, you get addicted to what got you those results.”
As for the motivating viral moment, Evans can smile about it now. It’s a stark contrast from where it put him mentally in the moment.
“I’m over it now,” Evans says. “I know it’s part of the game, so it doesn’t bother me anymore. Now, I won’t lie, I would be very happy to block his dunk one day. It’s all good though. Back then I never would’ve thought I’d be in this position with all these coaches coming at me. It shows me what hard work and motivation can get you.”
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