I'm not sure if you're aware, but Maurice Evans is a pretty big deal these days.
And not just because he's an NBA player with the Washington Wizards, the sixth team with which he has played during a seven-year career. No, Evans has some extra clout as one of eight players serving on the NBA's executive player's committee as the players and owners try and hash out details of a collective bargaining agreement before a lockout similar to the one underway in the NFL.
The major issue, of course, is money. The owners want to stop paying the players as much and the players don't want to give up their piece of the pie.
Evans, 32, credits his education at Wichita Collegiate — and then at Wichita State and Texas — with helping him in the smarts department, and he would like to find a career in an NBA front office after his playing days are finished.
"This allows me the experience of actually bargaining and trying to have a direct impact on whatever outcome there is, good or bad,'' said Evans, who is visiting his family for Mother's Day and spoke to students Friday at Collegiate, where he was an All-State basketball player in 1996 and '97.
That was a long time ago. The fiery and admittedly immature Evans is a fully grown 6-foot-5 hulk of a man with a beautiful wife, former Lakers girl and professional dancer Alexandra Meacham, and a 15-month-old daughter, Reese.
Evans met Alexandra when he played for the Lakers during the 2006-07 season. Players weren't allowed to date the dancers, he said — but almost immediately after the season ended, he made his move.
"I've got a lot of great things going on right now,'' Evans said. "She's been a blessing in my life and having a daughter has changed my life, without a doubt.''
There's a reason Evans has bounced around professionally, and he chooses to believe it's a good one. His versatility and ability to accept being a role player, he says, has helped make him attractive to a number of NBA teams. He's in his third stint playing for Flip Saunders, who also had Evans in Minnesota and Detroit.
Evans, like everybody else who has NBA aspirations, wanted to be a star. He wanted to score the most points and be the guy who had the ball in his hands late in games.
That wasn't going to happen. Instead, Evans has found a niche as a complementary player, something he's come to cherish. He regards it as a strength to be able to remain viable as the oldest player on a young Wizards team that wasn't much of a factor this season but has some promise.
"I feel like I'm playing at a high level,'' said Evans, who averaged 9.7 points in 26 games with Washington, nearly three points above his career average. "I don't see why I couldn't go until I'm 36, 37. But do I want to be around then? If there's another positive alternative, we shall see. That's the blessing I see for myself, to be able to do more than one thing successfully. Basketball takes a toll and I'm not as athletic as I used to be. But when you lose that, you concentrate on your experience.''
Evans has to be doing something right. He's not in the playoffs this season for the first time in his career. But when he was in Chicago this week at a player's union meeting, he did go to the floor of the United Center to meet up with his former Atlanta Hawks teammates, who are battling the Bulls in the Eastern Conference semifinals.
"The irony in this league, and one of the things I'm talking to the students at Collegiate about, is being the exception vs. being the rule,'' Evans said. "A lot of us think we're the exception when in fact we're the rule. But I'm the rule in basketball, not the exception. Kobe, LeBron and guys like that are the exception. They're the guys playing at the highest level.''
Evans thought he could have been a big scorer for the Lakers, but LA coach Phil Jackson didn't need him to be that. He needed Kobe Bryant, obviously, to carry the scoring load and Evans to concentrate on doing the more subtle things to help the Lakers win games.
"So I stayed professional and I worked,'' said Evans, who scored nearly 1,000 points in two seasons at Wichita State before leaving the Shockers and transferring to Texas. "Now I'm a role player and I've found a way to stay in a rotation in this league for a long time, which is something I'm really proud of. To find a way to be in the top eight or nine players on a team says a lot about your longevity.''
Dressed in an expensive suit on a warm day, Evans said he was excited to talk to the Collegiate students in the same auditorium he went in and out of hundreds of times as a high school student.
"I started at this school in sixth grade in 1988,'' he said. "It wasn't all peachy and just a Cinderella success story. The transition was tough because I wasn't coming from a situation where academics were necessarily the biggest priority. You kind of had to sink or swim.''
Evans figured it out, just as he's been figuring things out since. He's made a career playing basketball, but he's determined to have something waiting when the ball stops bouncing.