Evans adds an English accent to his resume, will play professionally overseas

Holy Cross and UConn  graduate R.J. Evans of Salem will leave next week to play for the Durham Wildcats in the British Basketball League.
Holy Cross and UConn graduate R.J. Evans of Salem will leave next week to play for the Durham Wildcats in the British Basketball League. Jessica Hill/ AP Photo

Odds are when R.J. Evans sets a goal, he'll accomplish it.

Evans already has earned an economics degree from Holy Cross, a master's degree in educational psychology from UConn and made an impact playing college basketball for both programs.

So when Evans talked about his desire to continue his playing career and education last May after leaving UConn, it was a safe bet that he'd figure out a way to pull it off.

Evans has done just that.

Next week, Evans, 23, will board a flight to England where he'll begin a professional basketball career and attend school. He will play for the Durham Wildcats, a member of the British Basketball League.

"It's going to be a good experience to go there and live in a new country for about eight months and see what happens," said Evans, a former Norwich Free Academy standout from Salem, on Tuesday. "It will be fun. ... It was always something that I wanted to do."

After his UConn basketball season ended in March, Evans began looking at his options. He took his law school entrance exam in June and did some substitute teaching at NFA.

But he wasn't ready to stop playing basketball, so he explored playing overseas.

"I thought about doing a lot of different things," Evans said. "I still love basketball. If I had the opportunity to play, I was definitely going to consider it."

A former Holy Cross teammate, Andrew Keister, recommended playing in England. Keister played for Durham last season. Evans also received some sound advice from close friend, D.J. Exum, a New London High School graduate and former guard at Becker College.

Evans jumped at the offer to play for Durham, which is based in town of Newton Aycliffe in northern England.

"I feel like I would regret it later in life if I didn't take a chance to go overseas and play basketball professionally in Europe," Evans said. "The situation sounded very appealing to me."

Evans, a 6-foot-3 guard, stayed in shape over the summer, working out on his own and with a trainer and also playing in the Greater Hartford Pro-Am in Waterbury.

Evans is unsure what his role will be with Durham. It won't take long for him to find out, as Durham opens its season on Sept. 27. The regular season covers 33 games.

"They told that they're excited for me to come and they're getting a lot of pieces to put around me and I can be a scorer and a playmaker," Evans said.

Evans believes his UConn experience prepared him well for playing on the professional level. He played a valuable leadership role for the Huskies last season, averaging 3.1 points in 27 games.

"It definitely helped me out a lot," Evans said. "I played with some great players and had a great coaching staff. Not many players get to experience that.

"... I expect it to be a very easy transition because of what we learned at UConn about the hard work that coach (Kevin) Ollie and before that coach (Jim) Calhoun instilled in us."

His biggest adjustment may be doing without his mom's cooking. He's been spoiled living at home this summer.

"I heard the food over there wasn't that good, so I have to get in as much as I can now," Evans said.

His parents, Ray and Deborah, are already planning on making the trip to England to watch him play.

As part of his contract, his classes will be paid for. He'll take courses in the business school at Durham University.

"I'm just adding a third dimension to what could possibly be in my future," Evans said. "I have an economics degree from Holy Cross and I want to expand on it. ... It's being paid for so it's hard to turn that down."

Cross another goal off his list.

g.keefe@theday.com

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