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Dana Evans is backup point guard Sky have always needed

Midseason acquisition Evans, who backs up Courtney Vandersloot, has paid dividends.

Chicago Sky guard Dana Evans, left, protects the ball from Connecticut Sun guard Natisha Hiedeman during a WNBA game Saturday, June 19, 2021 in Chicago. (AP Photo/Eileen T. Meslar) ORG XMIT: NYOTK
Chicago Sky guard Dana Evans, left, protects the ball from Connecticut Sun guard Natisha Hiedeman during a WNBA game Saturday, June 19, 2021 in Chicago. (AP Photo/Eileen T. Meslar) ORG XMIT: NYOTK
Eileen T. Meslar, AP Photos

Sky rookie Dana Evans remembers making the hourlong drive from Gary, Indiana, to Allstate Arena when she was in high school.

From the stands, she’d watch Sylvia Fowles, Elena Delle Donne and Courtney Vandersloot lace up their sneakers and take the court for the Sky. She was a young fan with talent of her own that needed developing and a dream to play in the WNBA.

On April 15, that dream was realized when Evans was selected with the 13th overall pick in the WNBA Draft by the Dallas Wings, and on June 2, the journey came full circle.

“[The Wings] had a game the night before the trade happened,” Evans said. “I played a minute. My agent called me after the game and said, ‘We’re trying to figure something out with Chicago.’ ”

Sky coach and general manager James Wade traded rookie Shyla Heal and draft assets for Evans, the backup point guard the team desperately needed.

No one could have predicted she had been right in their backyard all these years, watching, developing her skills and waiting for her moment to prove what she can do.

Since joining the Sky in June, Evans is averaging 3.7 points in 7.8 minutes. While Michaela Onyenwere (she’s averaging close to nine points and has started all 28 games) is the favorite for rookie of the year, Evans is making a case of her own. It has largely gone unnoticed by everyone except her teammates and coach.

But Vandersloot is the league leader in assists and fourth on the WNBA’s career list. And she plays heavy minutes, which means there aren’t many opportunities for Evans. But when called on, she comes in ready and plays with the confidence of a veteran. Those qualities are what make her the backup the Sky always have needed.

Her teammates know that when she’s on the court, the offense isn’t going to break down, and she’s definitely going to hit a shot.

Against the Storm on Sunday, Evans had a career-high 14 points in 16 minutes and shot 66.7% from three-point range. She finished with three assists, two steals and a plus/minus rating of +20. After that performance, her teammates serenaded her with rookie-of-the-year chants in practice.

“She’s in a place where she feels good, she feels confident,” Wade said before the team’s 103-83 loss Tuesday to the Phoenix Mercury. “She’s maybe somebody that if she comes to us earlier, she’d probably be in the rookie-of-the-year discussions.”

Wade said he’s impressed by Evans’ daily growth, something that’s unavoidable when you get a player with her ceiling and a veteran with Vandersloot’s basketball IQ on the same court.

Evans credits her success to the coaching staff’s commitment to her development, which has been accelerated going up against Vandersloot in practice. Evans gets a master class every day on how to control games, execute difficult passes and get through pick-and-roll defenses. Evans’ basketball IQ has allowed her to consume every lesson like a sponge.

Wade has seen improvements in Vandersloot’s game in response to those matchups in practice, as well. Defensively, Vandersloot has been tested by Evans, who does not let up when the ball is in her hands.

When the trade went through and Evans arrived in Chicago, no longer a young fan but a rookie, she knew the fit was right. Now she’s focused on capitalizing on every minute she gets on the court.

“This league is so good, you have to be out there in order to get better,” Evans said. “Getting that experience on the court, learning on the fly is big [for me].”