One might say basketball is in his genes — his father played for the NBA’s Chicago Bulls while his mother played collegiately for
Pac-10 Big West powerhouse Long Beach State. If you ask Chris Eversley why he plays basketball, he’ll tell you that genetics is exactly the case.
“My dad put the basketball in my crib and was like, ‘You know what to do with this,’” Eversley said. “And, of course, my mom was always there for support too. I kind of had to play basketball since both of them did.”
But the 6-foot-6, 220-pound sophomore forward from Chicago didn’t inherit all of his characteristics from his professional-playing dad, Mike “Tank” Eversley, who was known more for his physical style of play than his ability to knock down mid-range jumpers.
“Him and I are like night and day,” Eversley said. “He was more physical; he was more of a strength player. I’m more fluid, and my dad really couldn’t shoot, and I can.”
On the other side, his mom, Nina Leonard, was also a star at the collegiate level, playing against the likes of Hall-of-Famers such as Cheryl Miller. He said not only has she been a huge influence on his basketball endeavors, but his academic career as well. For him, she provides the academic balance to his father’s athletic influence.
This was evident for Eversley as he attended Walter Payton College Prep on the northside of Chicago, a top-ranked magnet school in the Windy City. Although the school is known mainly for its academics, Eversley helped put its basketball program on the map by leading the Grizzlies to the Chicago consolation city championship as a senior.
A top-ranked recruit coming out of high school, Eversley was the first male athlete in school history to sign a national Letter of Intent with a Division I athletics program — had he signed one day earlier he would have been the first athlete, male or female, to play Division I sports.
Eversley was sought after by many local universities including Loyola-Chicago, Illinois-Chicago, and Chicago State (his father’s alma mater), as well as some Ivy League schools on the East Coast. But the 220 pound workhorse settled on Rice University in Houston, Texas, a decision Eversley says he doesn’t regret, but in retrospect, it was made hastily.
“I felt as though if I wanted to play and be as successful as I wanted to be, then I would have to go somewhere else for it,” Eversley said. “That’s what I did coming out to Cal Poly.”
Eversley vowed to be more patient in deciding what school to transfer to, but as soon as he visited Cal Poly in the summer of 2010 — a school he said he really had no intention of attending — he knew the Central Coast was the right fit. Eversley credits assistant coach Omar Lowery and Will Taylor most for his swift decision to become a Mustang.
“I absolutely fell in love with the place,” Eversley said. “I will never forget the one line I remember from my visit the most was from Will Taylor. He said, ‘Just come here.’ It was the simplest thing, but it meant the world.”
Eversley was forced to redshirt the 2010-11 season due to NCAA Division I transfer guidelines, but this season he is an integral part of the Mustang lineup.
Head coach Joe Callero said Eversley is a rising star both on the court, and believes his presence on and off the hardwood makes everyone on the team around him that much better.
“I love him as a player, but I love our team as people,” he said. “He’s one of those guys that is easy to support. He’s easy to enjoy as a person, which makes the team that much more successful.”
Eversley has appeared in all of Cal Poly’s 22 games in 2011-12 and recorded a career-high 19 points in a 100-54 thrashing of Cal State Northridge on Jan. 21. In Cal Poly’s most recent contest against UC Davis, Eversley matched a career-high in rebounds with nine grabs off the glass, convincing Callero of his drive to become the future of the program.
“He has shown a steady improvement,” Callero said. “We want a guy that’s going to continue to work hard, and now that he’s earned a starting position, I think he is a guy who feels like he’s going to work even harder to keep that starting position. We’ve got five freshmen coming in next year, and he’s going to be a junior. He’s going to have to be a leader for those underclassmen.”
Teammates, coaches and friends are quick to notice Eversley’s characteristic feature: his approachable personality. According to them, the redshirt sophomore always has a smile on his face, forging friendships with strangers and fans alike. Senior forward and roommate Jordan Lewis says Eversley, or “C.E.” as those in the Cal Poly basketball circle call him, is one of the most outgoing individuals he knows.
“He is one of the easiest people to be around,” Lewis said. “He’s always happy, and he’s always making jokes. Whenever we’re on campus, he is always saying ‘Hi’ to people. He makes everyone around him have a good time. That’s C.E.”
Whether it’s his energetic personality or his love for the game of basketball, one thing is for sure: It must be in Chris Eversley’s DNA.
For more of the Chris Eversley photo shoot, visit the Photo Editor blog.
A very nice article on C.E. But, when is Coach Callero going to play Reece Morgan? Reece was an All American basketball player as a senior at Peninsula High School on the Palos Verdes Peninsula. He averaged 27 points per game with a number of rebounds. Reece could help the Mustangs win the rest of their games. Please Coach, give him a chance to prove himself. Thank you.
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