Noah Fleischman, Sports Editor
In the final preseason tune-up against Virginia State, redshirt-senior guard Marcus Evans called freshman guard Bones Hyland over to the bench in between free throws to point something out.
The selfless gesture did not go unnoticed by coach Mike Rhoades. He said that Evans helping out his back-up improve mid-game is something more than coaching, but a culture within the program.
Built by Rhoades and his staff, that culture has allowed players to voice their opinions freely and even step up to talk to other players instead of a coach doing so.
“We talk about having ‘I got it’ guys and you’re ready to say something and a senior says, ‘I got it coach’ — you know he’s got it and you know the team’s going to get it,” Rhoades said.
Senior guard De’Riante Jenkins called a point guard an “extension of the coach, but also the leader of the team.” He said Evans embodies both of those traits, allowing the team to succeed at a higher level.
Evans, who was named C-USA Freshman of the Year in 2016 at Rice, said having someone there to talk to him made it easier in his freshman campaign. He said he looks at Hyland as a little brother and wants to help him improve has a player.
“I know when I was a freshman how much it helped me to have somebody talking to me, slowing the game down for me,” Evans said. “When you see that he’s making it hard on himself, just trying to find ways to make it easier for him.”
Hyland, who has played in all nine games this season for the Rams, said that Evans helps him understand and break down things that Rhoades or other coaches tell him.
Through the nine games he’s appeared in, Hyland averages 5.8 points in 15.4 minutes in relief of Evans.
With five seniors on the team, their playing experience has allowed them to take charge at times.
When the coaching staff huddles during timeouts, the players sit on the bench and talk about what they think they should adjust. Jenkins said it doesn’t matter who it comes from on the team — everyone else listens.
“I think it’s to the point to where anybody can say anything to anybody,” Jenkins said. “It’s not that you’re a senior, junior, sophomore, freshman. Everybody got a voice and it needs to be heard when it’s time to win.”
The Eutawville, South Carolina, native said communication is the most important skill in basketball.
“We say a quiet team is a losing team, so we try to talk as much as possible and talk about the right things,” Jenkins said. “It’s all about everybody helping each other so we can win.”