Jontel Evans' ability to get to the rim and finish will be missed as he recovers from surgery. - Grant Halverson
Jontel Evans enters his senior year as the unquestioned leader of this team. He is one of the quickest players in the nation, and basically gets to the rim at will. His ability to make plays on both ends of the floor, and lead the team will go a long way towards making the Hoos competitive this year. That, and his health.
Jontel Evans is almost an ideal PG for Tony Bennett. He is quick and physical and a great defensive player. On offense, he can get into the lane almost at will, and he has enough vision to find the open man when defenses collapse on him. He drastically improved him ability to finish at the rim last year, leading to him having, by far, his best offensive year. Evans shot 47% from the field last year, after being under 40% his first two years in the program. His FT shooting also improved to 62% after being in the mid 50s before.
As a defender, Evans is a beast. His quick feet allow him to stay in front of the quickest of ball handlers. And his quick hands help him to average better than 1.5 steals per game, despite playing in a defense that doesn't gamble for steals and for a team that severely limits possessions. Evans' steal rate (roughly defined as percentage of possessions that he ended up with a steal) was 147th in the nation (again, consider that Tony Bennett does not let his players gamble for steals).
The only thing that would make Jontel a more complete PG would be an improved ability to hit an outside shot. Evans shot 36% from the 3 point line last year, which is a solid percentage. His issues on the perimeter are the shots that he doesn't take, because he isn't comfortable shooting them. When he gets his feet set, Evans is a solid shooter. But off the dribble, he simply isn't capable of knocking down outside shots. Take a complete look at Jontel in this feature video from VirginiaSportsTV, which is a couple of years old, but highlights his abilities.
Last year, Evans averaged 4.2 assist per game, good for 4th in the ACC. Once again, one must consider this along with the number of possessions the team has. The Hoos play at such a slow tempo, that high assist numbers are almost impossible. Evans' assist rate (roughly defined as percentage of teammate field goals a player assisted while he was on the floor) was 27.9%, good for 164th in the nation. Also, remember how many buckets Mike Scott earned on his own last season, without help from anybody.
Evans is expected the miss at least the first game, and possibly a few more after that, after having surgery for a stress fracture he suffered in his shin. Evans is probably the indispensible player on the team, especially considering there are no other true point guards on the team who have played college ball before.