Evans prepping for Rutgers hoop debut


While many college-bound students are relaxing and recouping before heading to campus in a few weeks, Christa Evans has been at Rutgers University all summer after graduating from Jackson Memorial High School in June.

Like many past summers, it has been a structured summer schedule as Evans embarks on her college basketball career with coach C. Vivian Stringer’s Scarlet Knights.

“I’ve been here for three weeks. It’s mandatory,” said Evans, who stands 6 feet tall. “I want to take summer classes and get accustomed to school and have the daily workouts.”

Evans is taking two classes — exercise science and sociology — before bearing down in the fall for four demanding courses and the start of practice in October.

“It’s really tough,” said Evans. “It’s [weight] lifting workouts, then running tests every morning and pickup games and individual workouts.”

The running tests include timed sprints and long distance. It’s definitely no day at the beach or Great Adventure for Evans, but she is not complaining.

“I really like it. It’s definitely different,” said Evans. “It’s nothing like high school. You’re on your own for workouts during the day around classes. It’s a lot of scheduling and time management.”

But Evans admits there are times when she thinks about her friends and joining them in going to the beach or the mall, and she thinks about her sister, Shannon, who will be a senior at Jackson Memorial this fall .

Shannon has partnered with Christa in many summer basketball and volleyball workouts.

“I miss her so much. We were never apart,” Evans said. “We did every sport together, volleyball, basketball. We would do a lot of workouts together. She was around all the time. I have to get used to it.”

Evans believes the work she is putting in this summer will be beneficial as she looks to get stronger and lower her times for the timed running tests.

Stringer is away from campus these days, looking at rising senior high school prospects during the open recruiting period authorized by the NCAA.

The Scarlet Knights will open the 2011- 12 season on the West Coast with games against California on Nov. 12 and Stanford on Nov.14 before returning to the Rutgers Athletic Center in Piscataway for a home game against Princeton on Nov. 18.

Although most Rutgers students will be arriving in a month to begin fall classes, Evans said there are many athletes taking classes now, and most of them are doing early preparation workouts for their fall sports.

“I stay in the area with the athletes, and there are so many athletes running around; there’s always something to do, in football, soccer, basketball,” said Evans.

It’s different from the past few years when Evans would be spending this time playing basketball for her AAU team, the Philadelphia Belles, and for her high school team in the Belmar League.

She helped Jackson Memorial get off to a fast start last season en route to its third straight Shore Conference A South Division championship in a 22-win season that ended in an NJSIAA Central Jersey Group IV semifinal loss to Trenton Central.

She also would be getting ready for the high school volleyball season in the fall at this time with her sister as a middle hitter.

Christa and Shannon also competed in outdoor track and field in the spring in the throwing events, particularly the javelin.

“The volleyball team started working out a week ago,” said Evans. “Actually, it’s a very different feeling. I’m used to running around in a million different directions, and now I’m focusing on one thing.”

Although basketball was her No. 1 sport throughout high school, Evans established many individual records in volleyball, where she was a force at the net.

“I love volleyball and I’ll miss it a lot. It’s a fun sport to play, completely different from basketball,” Evans said.

“I coached both Christa and Shannon in girls soccer when they were at Goetz Middle School, as well as in volleyball, and it will be interesting to see Shannon play volleyball this fall without her sister, since you always saw the two together,” said Jackson Memorial girls volleyball coach Jason Ulrich. “We were unbeaten at Goetz when Christa was a seventh-grader. Both were defenders, and when they both played, Christa was the stopper and Shannon was the sweeper. Christa had a ‘big foot’ back then, but they both have been very wellrounded kids playing three sports.”

Now all of Evans’ focus is on basketball and playing in the Big East Conference, where Rutgers was 11-5 last season, 20-13 overall. The Scarlet Knights have nearly everyone back from a young team that lost in the second round of the Big East Tournament to West Virginia, then competed in the NCAA Tournament, where the Scarlet Knights lost in the opening round to Iowa, 83-60.

Those losses snapped a late-season surge for Rutgers, which won seven of its last 10 games going into the tournaments.