On Sunday afternoon, freshman forward Chyra Evans played her first quality minutes of the season in the No. 14 Michigan women’s basketball team’s win over Northwestern. Sidelined with an injury for the first three games of the season, she didn’t dress until the Wolverines embarked on their first road trip of the year at Fairfield. Before facing the Wildcats, Evans had played less than four minutes, which came against Air Force and Baylor after each game had already been decided.
In a tight game against Northwestern, Evans played a season-high 15 minutes, eight of which came in crunch time. She scored her first points of the season and snatched a key offensive rebound to extend a Michigan possession, ultimately giving graduate forward Emily Kiser an opportunity at the charity stripe. Kiser went on to sink two free throws to grow the Wolverines’ lead.
As a new player, Evans has turned to her team’s veterans for support. Kiser, for example, has shown strong leadership this season, and Evans’ poise down the stretch can be partially attributed to Kiser’s mentorship in the post.
“I think (the upperclassmen) gave her a tremendous amount of confidence to play in those important minutes down the stretch,” Michigan coach Kim Barnes Arico said after the win over Northwestern.
That poise also comes from her playing experience prior to Michigan.
Her teammates attribute Evans’ knowledge to the experience she gained at the professional level back in Australia. Before college, Evans represented her home country at the FIBA U19 World Championships, winning a silver medal, and played professionally in the NBL East 1 division for the Sydney Uni Flames.
Despite beginning the season on the bench, Evans’ high basketball IQ stood out to her teammates early on. At Michigan Media Days on Oct. 25, fifth-year wing Leigha Brown and junior forward Cameron Williams both noted her intellect.
IQ on the court is vital in transitioning to the collegiate level and is even more crucial in preparing for late-game situations.
“Chyra is just really, really smart,” Brown said Oct. 25 at Michigan Media Days. “I think from the professional level and you can kind of see that translate over.”
And as she translates her game over, she has been relying on some of her teammates, especially senior center Izabel Varejão. She is a fellow international player and has proven especially helpful in the transition. Whether that’s on the basketball court, with American terminology or converting from the metric to the Imperial system of measurement, Varejão’s been someone Evans can turn to.
She has also relied on her basketball family. Evans grew up surrounded by basketball. Her mom, Chloe Mullaney, played in the Women’s National Basketball League (WNBL), and her older brother Trace who currently plays NCAA basketball at Seattle Pacific.
Even with a basketball family and professional experience, she’s had to acclimate to basketball in the United States.
“I’m still adjusting,” Evans said Oct. 25 at Michigan Media Days. “It’s been difficult, especially the first week. Because over here, it’s so much quicker, more physical and in Australia it’s more slowed-down.”
But Evans seems to be figuring it out, and that is in part due to the support from her teammates, family and her professional experiences in Australia.
Although it took eight games before Evans took the court for an extended period of time, she flashed potential in her first real opportunity. And if she continues to exhibit the IQ and poise on the court that she displayed Sunday, she can put the Wolverines in a great position as Big Ten play heats up.