COLUMBIA — Taylor Evans is the only player on this season's Columbia College men's basketball team has been with the team longer than two seasons.
Evans, a 6-foot-3 senior from Belleville, Ill., is the last remaining player from the Cougars team that played in the NAIA national championship game in 2009.
Columbia College (7-4)
at Benedictine College (5-5)
WHERE: 7 p.m. Friday
WHERE: Atchison, Kan.
Coach Bob Burchard said four-year players like Evans are important because they carry over information, both positive and negative, from past seasons.
Evans has knowledge that can help guide the team, having been through a 30-8 season and a 13-19 season with the Cougars. Evans has learned from both types of seasons because he has seen things that have and have not worked, Burchard said.
Teammates look to Evans when they have questions about the system.
"He knows offensively and defensively exactly what the coach wants all the time," guard Devin Griffin said.
Evans said playing on the team that made it to the championship game shaped him as a player. As a freshman, Evans was primarily a 3-point shooter on that team.
"I understood how the system works here, within the offense or defense," Evans said. "I learned that from that team."
Now, Evans considers himself a "gel" player. He has taken on more roles, including the role of guarding opponents' best offensive player.
"Since my sophomore year I've kind of grown into that role," Evans said. "It's not a stat thing, but you can take pride in it."
One thing that helps Evans on defense is his sturdy build, Burchard said. Evans was always big, but Burchard saw improvements in Evans' level of conditioning after his sophomore year.
The 215-pound guard can lift more weight than anyone else on the team, but he likes to be efficient in his workouts. Evans credits his strength to his summer weight training program that is specialized for sports.
"It helps you get a lot stronger without just coming in benching every day," Evans said. "I can really tell. It has helped my body a lot."
Evans said he makes sure to put his muscle to work on the court.
Burchard said he sees a big difference in the team when Evans comes out of a game. Even in practice, Evans doesn't let his summer workouts go to waste.
"He's definitely our team bully," Griffin said. "He pushes us little guards around in practice. He definitely makes me work harder. You can't come in soft playing around him."
Evans is not a vocal leader of the team, but Burchard said the senior sets a great example with his attitude and work ethic. Evans has received academic all-conference honors every year he has attended Columbia College.
"We all look up to him for that and applaud him," Griffin said. "He pretty much leads us with academics."
Burchard hopes other players follow the example set by Evans, who the coach calls the "model Columbia College student-athlete."
"We have somebody that really can be a really good athlete and be an extremely good student," Burchard said. "That has to impact the other guys."