Former University of Kentucky basketball star Heshimu Evans has made a living playing the sport across the world. Like many before him, the skills and knowledge he possesses have brought him back to Central Kentucky.
He didn’t believe they would 17 years ago.
“I had a friend of mine tell me that, ‘You know what, when you’re done you’re gonna definitely come back and live here,’” Evans said. “When he told me that I was like, ‘Yeah, whatever, there’s no way I’m gonna come back.’ But look at me now.”
Evans, who was a critical bench player for UK’s 1998 national championship squad, is joining the girls’ basketball coaching staff at East Jessamine High School. Evans’ addition to the staff was announced via the athletic department’s Twitter profile, @EJHS_Athletics.
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“Kentucky is a great state,” Evans said. “It’s always been good to me. I’m happy to be back and I’m happy that I can return the favor, per se, teaching kids and inspiring kids.”
Evans is not alone as a former Wildcat now in the Kentucky prep ranks. Dale Brown is the boys’ head coach at Eminence and Anthony Epps is the girls’ head coach at Campbellsville. Kyle Macy is the tennis coach at Lexington Christian Academy. Erik Daniels was recently named an assistant girls’ basketball coach at Bryan Station.
East Jessamine Athletic Director Daniel Sandlin said the program is happy to help set Evans on the path to becoming a head coach someday.
“We’re just trying to help him get into it but also we know that he can bring a ton of knowledge to our girls,” Sandlin said. “ … We’re super excited to have him. He’s an upfront, honest, high-character guy.”
The New York native played two seasons at UK after transferring from Manhattan College. He was not selected in the 1999 NBA Draft but played professionally overseas until recently. The 6-foot-6 forward has played in Angola, France, Japan, Portugal and Spain.
The UK mystique never lost its luster in his travels.
“You know what’s really amazing is I was living in Nagoya, Japan, and I’m thinking, ‘This is a great place to play basketball but there’s not going to be anyone from Kentucky or they’re not gonna recognize Kentucky basketball,’” Evans said. “And, you wouldn’t believe it, I’m in line getting something to eat at a nice Japanese restaurant buffet and I hear someone say, ‘Go Big Blue.’ I turn around and there’s a Japanese guy and he’s got a Kentucky Wildcat basketball shirt on.
“You just can’t make this up. Kentucky basketball is loved worldwide.”