College voyage includes a trip home for Evans

Ex-NFA star Kastine Evans, right, pulls a loose ball away from South Carolina's Ashley Bruner during a Feb. 14 game. Evans returns to Connecticut today as a starter for No. 2 Kentucky, which plays Delaware  in a Sweet 16 game in Bridgeport.
Ex-NFA star Kastine Evans, right, pulls a loose ball away from South Carolina's Ashley Bruner during a Feb. 14 game. Evans returns to Connecticut today as a starter for No. 2 Kentucky, which plays Delaware in a Sweet 16 game in Bridgeport. James Crisp/ AP Photo

Bridgeport - Kastine Evans grew up in a household in Salem where education was considered as important as a spleen or a lung. Hence, it shouldn't be a stunning upset to learn that Evans, back (near) home this weekend in the Sweet 16, has a near-perfect grade point average at the University of Kentucky.

But Evans has turned the promise of college into the greatest of rewards for the people around her. She has taken this ultimate voyage of self-discovery and turned it into an inspiring story of developing an obligation to things are greater than her self-interest.

Her brother, R.J., a fellow graduate of Norwich Free Academy, who recently completed the men's basketball season at UConn in pursuit of his Master's degree, says that his sister would make a great Chief Executive Officer of a non-profit organization. The evidence is overwhelming that Brother Knows Best.

"He knows I am passionate about helping other people," Kastine Evans was saying Friday at Webster Bank Arena, site of today's regional semifinals between Kentucky and Delaware, UConn and Maryland. "He actually wants me to go to law school. He says, 'Evans and Evans' sounds good."

For now, though, Kastine Evans owns the honor of having her named linked with Arthur Ashe. She is a finalist, along with Kentucky men's basketball player Twany Beckham, for the 2013 Arthur Ashe Jr. Sports Scholar Award. They were chosen from more than 500 minority student-athletes.

Past recipients of the award include a Heisman Trophy winner (Robert Griffin III), one of the consciences of women's basketball (Kara Lawson) and a football Hall of Famer (Marshall Faulk).

Evans spends ample time with books and basketballs. But her vocation has become service.

She went to Ethiopia last summer where she helped renovate houses and play sports with children. She launched her own non-profit organization in January, "Shooting for Success," helping children from low-income families in the Lexington region.

Evans also volunteered last summer at the Ronald McDonald House in Lexington with teammate Samarie Walker and even volunteered as a Salvation Army bellringer near the holidays.

"I just want to be able to reach one or two kids," Evans said. "I want them to know someone is looking out for them."

Evans has started the last 12 games for the Wildcats, who made the Elite Eight last season and lost to UConn in the finals of the Kingston (R.I.) Regional. She's averaging 4.2 points per game, including 12 in a win over Texas A&M.

She's also been named to the university's Society of Character, honoring student-athletes who have "shown an extraordinary commitment to academic excellence, athletic participation, personal development, career preparation and serving as a role model."

Evans, who said she'll have ample representation in the crowd today, said she followed her alma mater's run to the Eastern Connecticut Conference girls' basketball tournament championship, too.

"NFA prepared me very well," she said. "It's a great high school with a great academic program."

m.dimauro@theday.com

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