Evan Unrau came to Missouri as a scrappy post player. She will leave as one of the best all-around players in school history.
Unrau, a 6-foot-1 senior from Fort Collins, Colo., developed into one of the biggest offensive threats in the Big 12 Conference after switching from power forward to small forward after her freshman season.
Evidence of Unrau’s progress came in March when Missouri traveled to Unrau’s hometown to play Colorado State in the WNIT Quarterfinals. Unrau’s team-high 26 points and seven rebounds in a 62-61 loss were impressive, but she said her improved style of play got the most attention.
“I’ve always been a rebounder and kind of a scrappy player in high school,” Unrau said. “I got the chance to play at home last year at the end of the season and the people there that saw me were like, ‘Who are you?’
“That was neat because it shows that I’ve made a lot of improvements and increased my ability.”
A key element
Unrau’s importance to the Tigers in the past three years is unmistakable. Since coming to Missouri, Unrau started all but five games she missed during her sophomore year with a broken finger on her right hand.
As a freshman, Unrau averaged 8.3 points while playing mostly in the post. Coach Cindy Stein saw Unrau playing small forward when she recruited her from Rocky Mountain (Colo.) High, and when that position opened at the end of the 2001 season, Unrau filled it with no problem.
Displaying her versatility, Unrau improved offensively after switching to small forward, averaging 12.4 points as a sophomore and a team-high 16 last year.
Unrau also developed into one of Missouri’s best outside shooters during the past two years. As a freshman, Unrau attempted one 3-point shot and missed, but she has shot 46-of-126 from 3-point range since.
“Every year she gets better at something,” Stein said. “Her freshman year she didn’t have great range with her jumper and her ballhandling was suspect, but she’s developed now to where she is a very good 3-point shooter, she’s a good ball handler and a 10 times better defender.”
Although Unrau is Missouri’s main scoring threat, she has never lost the scrappy attitude that made her an effective post player. Unrau led Missouri in rebounds in each of the past three seasons, and Stein said she can always count on Unrau to hustle and make a big play when necessary.
“I would say complete is the best way to describe her,” Stein said. “She is just such a complete person and such a complete player and she just provides all the little things.
“Even when she isn’t hitting she does so many other things that make our team better, whether it is tipping the ball to an open person or making the assist or rebound, she just does everything.”
High expectations this year
This season, Unrau’s role on the team is different because for the first time she is alone in the spotlight. In years past, Unrau had older players like Kerensa Barr and Amanda Lassiter to share the role of leader with, but this year, Unrau is without a doubt the Tigers’ go-to player.
Coupled with the expectations surrounding her selection to the All-Big 12 team last year and her status as a Street & Smith’s preseason All-American this year, Unrau faces more pressure than ever to succeed. Despite these new demands, Stein does not think Unrau will have any problem adjusting to the new role.
“It’s only pressure if Evan allows it to be,” Stein said. “You can’t worry about what other people think and you’ve just got to be you and that is where Evan’s focus needs to be, and I think it is and I really don’t worry too much about her.”
Entering her final season at Missouri, Unrau said she would like nothing more than to return to the NCAA Tournament; the Tigers reached the Sweet 16 during Unrau’s sophomore season.
Unrau’s goals for after college are not as defined, but she said that she would definitely entertain the idea of playing professional basketball if it is a possibility. For now, Unrau says she wants to savor every moment as her collegiate career winds down.
“I don’t want to have any regrets,” Unrau said. “A lot of people just want to get their last year over with and take things for granted and I don’t want to have that feeling when it is all said and done.
“I’m just trying to live every day, every practice and every game because I mean, its only four years of your life you get to do this, and I just want to enjoy it.”