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2021 WNBA Draft Watch: Dana Evans is one of the top scorers in the ACC — and her draft class

The Louisville Cardinals are one of the top teams in the nation and they boast one of the country’s best guards in Dana Evans. A skilled scorer, Evans continues to improve as a Cardinal and will be highly sought after in the 2021 WNBA Draft.

NCAA BASKETBALL: MAR 31 Div I Women’s Championship - Quarterfinals - Connecticut v Louisville
Dana Evans’ scoring ability — particularly from behind the 3-point line — is her most malleable skill.
Photo by Gregory Fisher/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Though it’s still early in the 2020-21 NCAA women’s basketball season, the Louisville Cardinals have stood out as one of the country’s top teams — and they also have one of its top guards in Dana Evans.

Evans, a 5-foot-6 senior from Gary, IN, has taken her game to new heights in each of her previous seasons as a Cardinal, going from a bench player as an underclassman to an alpha-dog scorer and ACC Player of the Year as a junior. Such a jump in production has been impressive, to say the least, and Evans will undoubtedly be one of the first players to hear her name called in the 2021 WNBA Draft.

First, though, as a senior, Evans will be tasked with leading a talented Louisville team — and a talented backcourt mate in particular — to a national championship.

Honors and statistics

While Evans was a highly-decorated player coming out of high school (she was ranked as 2017’s No. 9 overall prospect according to ESPN), she had to work her way up the ladder season-by-season to get to where she is today — not an uncommon route for players to take when playing for consistently loaded programs like Louisville.

Evans’ ascent to the top of the Cardinals pecking order is reflected in her past honors. As a freshman, she was named to the ACC All-Freshman Team, followed by a Sixth Player of the Year award as a sophomore. The following season — Evans’ first as a full-time starter — she averaged 18 points and 4.2 assists per game en route to a healthy collection of awards: ACC Player of the Year, All-ACC First Team and Second Team All-American (AP and USBWA).

Internationally, Evans won gold for Team USA in the 2016 FIBA Americas U18 Championship, averaging 8.8 points per game in the competition.

How she helps the Cardinals

NCAA BASKETBALL: MAR 31 Div I Women’s Championship - Quarterfinals - Connecticut v Louisville Photo by Gregory Fisher/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Throughout her career as a Cardinal, Evans has been known as a scoring lead guard and that’s what she’ll continue to cut her teeth on in 2020-21 and the future.

During her 2019-20 ACC Player of the Year campaign, Evans shot 43.1 percent from 3-point range on seven attempts per game, both among top marks in the nation. As expected from a shooter of her caliber, Evans knocked down 89 percent of her free throw attempts, and according to Her Hoop Stats, she posted 7.2 offensive win shares — 18th among all NCAA players and eighth among players in Power 5 conferences.

As a senior, it’s been more of the same for Evans. The sample size is small thus far (just four games), but she’s averaging better than 20 points per game, and her 2-point field goal percentage of 56.1 has improved dramatically — a jump that can usually be characterized by either a greater proportion of 2-point shots coming at the rim or by better finishing there. While that’s likely to regress some as the Cardinals begin facing stronger competition, Evans, being a smaller guard, will need to show that she can score as efficiently inside the paint as she does from beyond the arc.

Perhaps the most important next step for Evans, though, is to improve as a distributor. She’s already shown she can do it at an adequate level, but with this season’s Louisville team featuring star freshman Hailey Van Lith and Cal transfer Kianna Smith — both highly skilled offensive players themselves — Evans will have the chance to lead a more dynamic offense than in seasons past.

Thus far, Evans is assisting on 38.9 percent of Louisville’s baskets and turning the ball over on just 8.9 percent of her possessions, so that’s going well. Because she projects as more of a point guard than a shooting guard at the pro level, the gaudier Evans’ playmaking numbers are this season, the better she’ll look to WNBA general managers.

Watch her play

While the 2020-21 season is full of uncertainty, Louisville is currently scheduled for a handful of nationally televised games. The Cardinals’ Jan. 17 matchup against NC State (ESPN) will be of the must-watch variety, as will their pair of games against Syracuse (Feb. 1 on ESPN2 and Feb. 14 on ESPN). Those games against the Orange will be of particular interest to those keeping an eye on Evans, as she’ll match up against fellow WNBA draft prospects Tiana Mangakahia and Kiara Lewis.