CHICAGO — When the girls’ McDonald’s All-American Game tips off at the United Center on Wednesday, Dana Evans will be playing a mere 32 miles from her home in Gary, Ind. She knows it’s not a place that many think of positively due to decades of crime and poverty.
But she also knows that with so many people in Gary watching, she can be a positive for the city.
“Gary hasn’t had a girl McDonald’s All American. To be the first? That’s awesome. I can’t even describe the feeling,” Evans said.
She relishes the chance to be an inspiration.
“I love that I’m a role model to the younger girls to show them we live here, but that doesn’t mean we can’t get out,” Evans said. “I want to show them they can be anything. You just have to put the work in. You have to pray. You have to put God first, and you’ll get to where you need to be.”
Playing in northwest Indiana puts Evans in a tough position. Though her school is in Chicagoland, playing in Indiana means she doesn’t always get notice from Chicago-area media. Not being in Indianapolis means she doesn’t get as much attention from the media downstate.
She fully admits this situation makes her play with a chip on her shoulder.
“[I get it] from the people that doubt me. Every little thing can motivate me. If you tell me I can’t shoot, I’m going to hit threes. I like to prove people wrong,” Evans said.
This fall, she will head to Louisville to play for Jeff Walz and the Louisville Cardinals. It’s about four hours down I-65 from her hometown. Far enough for her to learn to stand on her own, but close enough that her parents can still see her play.
Evans is close to her parents, and says she gets some of her best attributes on the court from them.
“My attitude and the will to win that I have, I think I get that from my mom. We’re very feisty,” she said. “The mental toughness, I’m still working on that, but I get that from my dad. He’s laid back and cool with everything. That’s still growing with me.”
She chose Louisville not just because it was in the right place, but because also because it was the right fit.
“It felt like home. The coaches are great, and I have a good relationship with them,” she said. “Campus isn’t too big. It isn’t too much. It’s just enough for me.”