Derrick Webb, Staff Writer
KINNIKINNICK — It’s Cam Evans’ world, we’re just living in it.
As a freshman at Zane Trace High School, Evans started manually inserting his name into the area’s basketball circles and, as a sophomore, he etched it into stone.
Behind their do-it-all guard, the Pioneers finished the 2017-18 season at 15-8 … a complete turnaround from 8-15 the year before. Through that process, Evans scored 15 points per game and added an average of 3.1 assists to his totals.
That was while waiting patiently under the wings of seniors Isaac Beam and Gabe O’Dell. But make no bones about it: this year, as a junior, Evans is the man in Kinnikinnick.
He knows it, you know it and so do the Pioneers’ opponents.
“We’ve defined roles on this team. Cam’s role and the best asset he brings to our team right now is being our main offensive player,” Zane Trace coach Gary Kellough said. “He’s worked hard for that opportunity. Then, of course, his overall demeanor and love for the game and love for his teammates … that’s what he brings to the table.”
The list of services in which Evans provides Zane Trace with goes on and on … scoring, defending, commanding the offense, creating shot opportunities, providing veteran leadership, acting as a role model for younger kids in the program, etcetera, etcetera.
He’s been tabbed as the early favorite to win the Scioto Valley Conference Player of the Year award, his role inside Kellough’s offense is ever-imperative to the team’s success and his name is the one habitually circled in opponents’ locker rooms.
But pressure … Evans has never heard of that word.
“The thing that we told Cam, first off, was that you have to be a workaholic. He listened to us in the beginning and he is the hardest worker I’ve had in quite some time,” Kellough said. “That’s why he feels absolutely zero pressure on the little things. He feels zero pressure because he knows that if he works super, super hard, everything is going to fall into place.”
As Kellough alluded to, each night, Evans slips the expectations of himself in his pocket and steps onto the court without a worry in the world. It’s like riding a bicycle when you have his level of talent … he’s played “his game” before and he’ll play “his game” again and again.
“I just have to keep my head right. My mom is a big part of that, always telling me to not get too big-headed and always come out and play my game every night,” Evans said. “It’s just staying humble and playing my game. When I do that, good things happen for my team. So it’s doing what I know I can do but trying not to do too much.”
That can sometimes be a tough act to balance. But so far this season, so good. Zane Trace is 1-1 with a loss to Hilliard Davidson and a win over Chillicothe. Friday, they’ll travel to Unioto to open SVC play. If you haven’t been living under a rock, you know what that game means to both programs.
Upon Zane Trace and Unioto’s first meeting during Evans’ sophomore year, the Pioneers lost a 47-46 decision at home … a game where they had the Shermans trapped in a corner before letting them escape.
This year, Evans says, is different in a broader sense.
“I think this year, our second year with coach Kellough, we’re a little bit more patient and we’re in the flow of our offense a little bit more,” he said. “In our conference, we just have to play our game and not let opponents speed us up. It’s just getting in the flow of the game, really, and playing the way we know how to play.”
When you watch Evans play this year, remember that, in a time where student-athletes transfer to different schools for many reasons, he chose to stay at Zane Trace.And it’s not like he didn’t have options on the table.
“My mom graduated from here so that was a big part [of staying],” Evans said. “Zane Trace, my family has always been here. So instead of transferring out, I kept it in the family. My mom told me she wants me to graduate from Zane Trace … and I like my boys. They’re my brothers. They’ve been my brothers for a long time.”
Evans’ mother, Beth, has a lot to do with his success and Cam readily admits that factoid. The two’s bond is, as you’d expect, an unbreakable one. So it’s very possible that the way in which Beth brought Cam up has helped him develop lasting relationships with his teammates and coaches.
His favorite part about this year’s team, or his “brothers?”
“We can all goof around and have a good time but when it’s time to get serious, we all can settle down and do that,” he said. “But in practices, we can joke around and go hard at each other. It’s a good time. We have that brother-like relationship where we can do that.”
And his relationship with Kellough, on and off the court, isn’t far behind.
“My relationship with coach Kellough is great. He treats me like one of his own. Anytime I need to talk to him about anything, I can always text him or call him,” he said. “Transitioning into this year, he just kind of lets us play. In practice, he works with us guards and teaches us things that he used to do. He gets us poised and under control.”
Those relationships and his on-court talent have the potential to send the Pioneers to new heights this season. There’s always multiple variables when talking about how far a team can go. But with Evans leading the charge, the future looks quite bright for Zane Trace.
In his first two games this year, Evans has scored 48 points and don’t worry, he’s got a plan in place to sustain that type of success.
“I just want to keep playing the way I am right now and try to become a little bit more efficient from the floor,” Evans said. “More points, less shots. I think I can do that by staying in the gym and getting my shots up. Get my reps. Then when it comes game time, just do me.”
Translation: get your popcorn ready, Cam Evans is about to put on a show.