06/18/2009 1:56 PM ET
Like Strickland, Evans could make impact
New York considering Memphis star with No. 8 pick
By Adam Zagoria / SNY.tv
In his first and only year at Memphis, Tyreke Evans led the Tigers in points, assists and steals. (AP)

GREENBURGH, N.Y. -- Twenty years ago, Rod Strickland was a talented and popular point guard for the Knicks. A generation later, one of Strickland's proteges, Tyreke Evans, could end up in New York as well.

The Knicks hold the No. 8 pick in the NBA Draft on June 25 and have worked out a slew of point guards, including the 6-foot-6, 220-pound Evans out Chester, Pa.

"Every time I bring up the name, all the coaches say he was a great player," Evans said of Strickland on Monday after working out for Knicks' general manager Donnie Walsh and head coach Mike D'Antoni. "Rod's a great guy, he taught me a lot."

Strickland, who spent a year and a half with the Knicks, served as the director of basketball operations last season at Memphis when Evans played his only year of college ball. Strickland, who did not respond to a voice message seeking comment, has since joined John Calipari's staff at Kentucky, and Evans is awaiting draft night.

"That's a dream come true, Madison Square Garden," Evans said of potentially playing for the Knicks. "It's one of the best gyms in the NBA game, so I would love to play here." In their search for a point guard, the Knicks have worked out Evans, Syracuse's Jonny Flynn, North Carolina's Ty Lawson, Davidson's Stephen Curry and Brandon Jennings, who played professionally in Italy for one season.

Evans, the biggest guard in that group, is the second straight Memphis point guard to jump to the NBA after one college season. Derrick Rose led the Tigers to the NCAA Tournament title game in 2008 and was the NBA Rookie of the Year this past season with the Chicago Bulls.

Various mock drafts have Evans going anywhere from No. 6 to the Minnesota Timberwolves to No. 12 to the Charlotte Bobcats.

"You never know in this draft," Evans said. "It's a crazy draft, a lot of guards. Whoever picks me up, I'll be happy and hopefully we can win a lot of games."

Evans was the consensus national freshman of the year this past season. He thrived after Calipari moved him to point guard from the wing following a loss to Syracuse that dropped the Tigers to 6-3. During the first nine games, Evans averaged 14.8 points and 3.5 assists while looking tentative. But for the rest of the season, he averaged 17.2 points and 5.1 assists, helping the Tigers win 27 straight before falling to Missouri in an NCAA Tournament semifinal. Evans led Memphis in scoring (17.1), steals (2.1) and assists (3.9)

The question is whether Evans' skillset can translate to the next level the way that Rose's did. The knock on Evans has been his jump shot and his habit of falling away awkwardly after shooting it. Yet Evans has worked hard with Strickland, watching film and participating in two-a-days, to improve it.

"We took a lot of shots," Strickland said by phone from Memphis. "It's hard to just change somebody's shot in the middle or during the season. We just tried to put up some shots just to get confidence. That's what he's doing now. He understands he has to improve his jumper. And it comes down to concentration and repetition."

Said Evans: "Every day I'm in the gym getting up shots. Every day. Rainy day, sunny day, I'm in the gym. That's what I dreamed of doing, playing basketball. Now I'm making my dream come true. Trying to get in there and work as hard as I can."

Whether Evans becomes the NBA Rookie of the Year like Rose remains to be seen, but Strickland believes in his guy.

"I think he'll be real good," he said. "The one thing about Tyreke is that he's going to work and he's going to do whatever you ask him to do, so any flaw you see or think he has, he'll correct them because he'll put in the time.

"I think he has unlimited potential."

Adam Zagoria is a regular contributor to SNY.tv. Read his blog at ZagsBlog.net.
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