A WALK WITH A HAWK...FEATURING: BREONNA EVANS
Jan. 14, 2014
PRINCESS ANNE, MD. — The Eastern Shore of Virginia, as with most parts of Delmarva, is typically regarded as a quiet sanctuary amidst the surrounding metropolitan areas of Baltimore, Washington, Hampton Roads, and Philadelphia. Other than the islands of Assateague and Chincoteague with its wild ponies and tourist retreats, and the Wallops Island NASA facility, this strip of land between the Chesapeake Bay and the Atlantic Ocean usually doesn’t catch the national spotlight.
However, 45,553 residents call this place home as of 2010, with its plethora of small towns that dot the shoreline and straddle US Route 13, the main thoroughfare on the peninsula. This is the story of one of these people, senior University of Maryland Eastern Shore (UMES) women’s basketball player Breonna Evans.
Evans, a native of Melfa, a town of just over 400 people, followed in her brother’s footsteps to UMES with an academic scholarship in the hopes of becoming a recreational therapist. A high school standout at Nandua High School in nearby Onley, Va., she caught the attention of the Lady Hawks basketball head coach Fred Batchelor. “After talking with the coaches, they let me get on the team, and it’s been great ever since,” Evans said in a recent interview. Originally what is known as a walk-on, a player who is not given an athletic scholarship or heavily recruited by the college while in high school, Breonna is now getting the gift of playing time, something not every walk-on will receive as a student-athlete. In fact, she made her first career start last Saturday at home versus Norfolk State, scoring five points, two assists and a steal in over 23 minutes played.
But the playing time did not come easy. “It was really tough. My freshman year I rarely saw the floor. We had a lot of great players then, and I was new to everything. My sophomore year I tore my Achilles, so I knew I wasn’t going to play. I still worked hard my junior and senior years, so [Coach Batchelor] sees that and is putting me out there more.” The hard work is paying off—aside from the one start last Saturday, Evans has appeared in nine other games, contributing 19 points and nine rebounds so far on the season. Furthermore, she won the Coaches’ Award for her team in her freshman year after earning a 4.0 grade point average, best exemplifying what a Hawk is supposed to be.
She credits her mother, Eloise, as her biggest motivation, raising two kids on a teachers’ salary. “She’s always supported us…if I had games in North Carolina, she would go. She’s also at every game here.” Evans also likes the distance between UMES and her hometown, which is about 50 minutes; because it gives her the ability to keep those close home connections while still feeling independent. “It’s not in the way, but it allows me to go home, visit my mom, and get things I might need.”
Upon graduation from UMES, Breonna hopes to go onto graduate school (her first school of choice in Temple) and become a recreational therapist, a person who uses sports and recreation to help aid and heal physical ailments and disabilities. Evans also wants to return home, at least for a time, to motivate kids to play basketball in the hopes of achieving their dreams on and off the court, and to tell them that playing for a Division I school is certainly possible. Until then, you can see her on the floor at UMES home games, and as Evans admits, possibly dancing, which is one of her favorite free time hobbies.
When asked what the key to success is, Breonna answered “Resiliency, because everything is not always going to go your way. People are going to say you can’t do something or you’re not good enough, but if you feel it deep down in your heart, you can gain the strength to bounce back.” Evans should know, being a walk on athlete is a true exercise in resiliency. She has made it through four years of injury and no guarantees of playing time to her senior season, and that has earned her not only playing time, but the respect of her teammates.
Not bad for a teacher’s daughter from a town of 400 on the Eastern Shore of Virginia.