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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Kadeem Allen and Lauren Evans: The student-athlete personified

Arizona+senior+Kadeem+Allen+holds+his+daughter%2C+Genesis%2C+during+senior+night+in+McKale+Center+on+Feb.+25.
Pearl Dixon

Arizona senior Kadeem Allen holds his daughter, Genesis, during senior night in McKale Center on Feb. 25.

What defines a senior? Is it the composure they show when everything else is crumbling around them? Is it the drive to succeed and the development they go through budding from a teenager to a full-blown adult? Or is it the character they demonstrate day in and day out, unflappable confidence no matter what the situation that surrounds them?

In the case of seniors Kadeem Allen on the men’s basketball team and Lauren Evans from the women’s basketball team, it is all of the above.

Perhaps it was an extra year in the journey or the extra time to to mature as an adult, but both Wildcat basketball players have represented their teams as best they could, and while doing so, set the bar for student-athlete professionalism. 

Evans and Allen have taken two distinctly different paths towards their final year here at UA, but both roads have them ending with a degree and future prosperity.

Evans was a recruit from Hamilton High School and signed with Virginia Tech straight out of high school. She was rated a four-star recruit by ESPN Hoopgurlz and was the Arizona high school player of the year in 2012 in addition to being named defensive player of the year in 2010, 2011 and 2012.

During her freshman campaign, Evans started 28 of the 30 games for the Hokies, off to a strong start that included six games in double figures. But life has a funny way of not working out quite how you thought it would and the ensuing sophomore season Evans played very little, in fact, she didn’t start a game at all.

“It was kind of a rough period,” Evans said. “I had a lot going on at home and I thought it would just be best to go back home.”

Former Arizona head coach Niya Butts sold Evans on the opportunity to play in Tucson and come back to her home state. Though there were several reasons as to why she committed to the Wildcats, the two that stood out were family and the view of a program trending upward.

The latter hasn’t worked out for the fifth year senior. Heading into her redshirt junior year, Evans was part of a struggling women’s basketball program fighting for relevancy. That season the Wildcats went 13-19, winning only three conference games during the regular season.

However, the rejuvenation that new head coach Adia Barnes brought back into the program helped guide Evans down a path toward more success for both her and her teammates. This is evidenced by the Wildcats winning five conference games on the year and an overall record that hovered around .500.

“I really think that coach Barnes set us up for success,” Evans said. “She has a way of words with the players and she gets everybody going, and I think she is really going to build this program up. I just think she is a really great person.”

Kadeem Allen on the other hand has not experienced the same lack of success on the court with Arizona, instead his pressures are on the opposite side of the spectrum, trying to lead one of college basketballs more recognizable programs.

Allen was the 2014 Junior College player of the year at Hutchison Community College and has a total record of 51-13 during his time with the Wildcats.

Allen was a largely underrated prospect but has more than made up for the limited press with his work ethic and maturity, which is similar to Evans.

The fifth-year senior came to UA looking for a primary role, instead, he was asked to redshirt. A proposition that many in his position would scoff at, but not Allen.

“Kadeem is one of my favorite players I’ve ever been around, as a teammate, when I played, assistant coach, head coach,” Miller said. “He has overcome tremendous odds. He’s what college sports is all about. To come in and accept a role as a redshirt and then to watch his development over the past three years, I don’t know if I have been more proud of a kid.”

Evans and Allen bleed red and blue. Each one of their coaches rave about the work ethic, character and overall attitude they both have. Arizona head coach Sean Miller even reached a point where he seemed emotional when speaking about his beloved pupil in front of a capacity crowd following the Wildcats last game against UCLA.

“In all of the years that I’ve coached, I’ve never seen anybody grow up more than this guy,” Miller said. “…And I am very, very certain of this; he’s going to continue leading our team to the promise land.”

While Allen couldn’t quite get the Wildcats to it on the court, his legacy in terms of leadership will leave an impact on players for years to come, not to mention exceeding the expectations of those closest to him, like Miller.

All of the accolades and pats on the back are nice, but these two understand that their success is not driven by the score on the board but rather the content of their character. Each one meticulous in their approach, both approachable.

Evans can be seen across the campus with a smile that as former ESPN broadcaster Brent Musberger once said about Magic Johnson, “Lights up a television screen from here to Bangor, Maine.” Her attitude is infectious. 

Evans has been steadfast in her approach to basketball this season, you’d never know what the status of the team or game is based on her attitude because she is always the same, bright and full of life. It is not an overstatement to say she is a positive person, in fact, it would be the contrary.

A picture of Evans demeanor is her attitude after both ASU games this season, one a win, the other a loss. In both instances you’d never know what happened in the game, well, outside of a slight twinkle in Evans eye due to the fact that she did hit the shot that sealed the game for Arizona at home against the rival.

The same can be said about Allen, stoic, matter-of-fact, composed, all a testament to his character. Allen’s picture perfect moment came in his last game at McKale. In defeat, Allen stood on center court and soaked in the atmosphere one last time. Approaching him was easy, he simply smiled as questions were asked about his thoughts and even took a photo holding that weeks copy of the Daily Wildcat that had a foldout poster of him. 

Cheesy? Maybe. But after a heartbreaking loss, his professionalism shined no matter what emotions were moving through his body.

Evans and Allen are the epitome of what it should mean to be a Wildcat. Solid young people who have an eye towards the future and influencing the people around them in the best way possible.


Follow Saul Bookman on Twitter.


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