Shante Evans: Hofstra’s Game Changer

February 15, 2010

Shante Evans may be the most heralded recruit in the history of Hofstra University. And midway through her freshman season, she’s playing like it.

The 6-foot forward from West Chester, Penn., has transformed the Pride women’s basketball team into a must-see attraction and lifted the program into the thick of the Colonial Athletic Association standings.

The high point came Thursday when Hofstra (14-11 overall, 7-6 CAA) downed then-first place Virginia Commonwealth, 74-66. The Pride has won six of its last nine, dating back to an overtime win over UNC-Wilmington on Jan. 17.

Evans is a rare game changer as a freshman, leading the team, averaging 13.4 points and 8.9 rebounds. She’s shooting 50 percent from the field and has collected more rebounds (223) and double-doubles (10) than anyone else in the CAA.

“I keep hearing from folks who have been around here a lot longer than I have –
folks who have been around 30 years – she could be the best player who ever put on a Hofstra uniform,’’ Hofstra coach Krista Kilburn-Steveskey said. “That’s really exciting.”

It’s no surprise. Evans, a 2,000-point scorer and shot put champion at Henderson High School, was the 54th rated prospect in the nation by ESPN, and on Kilburn-Steveskey’s radar since her sophomore year. That long courtship paid off when Evans chose the Pride over Seton Hall, West Virginia, Temple, Drexel, UMass and Penn State.

“Hofstra had everything I was looking for in a school. I was close to home, I loved the team and coaching staff and I would get a good education,’’ said Evans, who is majoring in physical therapy.

And she’s just what the fourth-year coach needed to help take the Pride to the next level. Hofstra, two seasons removed from a 20-loss campaign, went 16-14 a year ago and was upset in the first round of the CAA Tournament.

“Her actions speak more than anything I can say about her,’’ Kilburn-Steveskey said. “She’s the most coachable kid I’ve ever coached. Her eagerness to learn is one of her biggest attributes. She’ll review something on film and you’ll see her work on it that next day in practice or in a game. We haven’t even touched what her ability is going to be by the time she gets out of here.”

The Pride reached the WNIT in 2007, its first Division I postseason appearance. And with Evens already owning the low post and getting better by the day, Hofstra has the foundation laid for another postseason run.

“We are playing good basketball,’’ Evans said. “And on defense [we’re] causing problems for our opponents. I can say we are headed in right direction and we’re only going to get better.”

With five games remaining in the regular season, including a home date Thursday, Feb. 18 at 2 p.m. against George Mason, there’s still room for improvement. The Pride has already proven it can run with the pack. How long will it be before Hofstra leads from the front?

Blog originally posted at LI

Long Island’s Super Connection

February 8, 2010

When a first quarter pass zipped in and bounced off his chest on Sunday night, you wondered what the game had in store for Marques Colston. The entire world watched as the New Orleans Saints receiver killed a promising drive with this drop.

Long Island’s lone connection to Super Bowl XLIV, Colston thrived in the spotlight all season as one of the NFL’s elite pass catchers. Now the former Hofstra University star had the look of a goat.

But Drew Brees went right back to Colston on the next drive as the Saints began to claw their way out of a 10-0 hole. The wideout ended up setting up the go-ahead, fourth-quarter touchdown and finished with seven catches for 83 yards.

“This is what I have dreamed about since I was four years old,’’ Colston said afterward. “It’s incredible.”

There were no shortage of New York storylines for Super Bowl XLIV, and each played a key role as the New Orleans Saints rallied past the Indianapolis Colts, 31-17.

They mostly revolved around former Jets and Giants castoffs Sean Payton, Jeremy Shockey and Jonathan Vilma finding redemption as Saints. Payton was the one-time Giants offensive coordinator who lost his groove and was fired. Vilma was once the heart of the Jets defense who the brass traded away because of a bum knee. And Shockey, well, he had simply proved impossible to tame and was shipped to the exile of New Orleans.

Each found new life with the Saints. And each had Super moments against the Colts.

But Long Island’s Colston probably had the longest odds of reaching the grand stage of the Super Bowl. That’s because the Harrisburg, Penn. native saw his father die at 14 and played Division I-AA football in college at overlooked and unheralded Hofstra.

“Coming out of high school, I was 175 or 180 pounds,’’ Colston recalled in the week leading up to the Super Bowl. “I wasn’t very polished as a receiver or a player. Hofstra ended up offering me a scholarship and gave me an opportunity to grow at a rate that I needed to grow. I just continued to work to get better as a player. Hopefully I’ve shown you guys what I am capable of doing.”

He played all four seasons for the Pride, starting 37 games and catching 182 passes for a school-record 2,834 yards and 18 touchdowns. The Saints drafted him in the seventh round in 2006. In just his fourth pro season, Colston is already fourth in franchise history in receptions and receiving yards and touchdowns.

Colston, now 6-4, 225 pounds, led the Saints in receiving this season with 70 catches for 1,074 yards and nine touchdowns. And in Super Bowl XLIV, he turned in a workmanlike performance. Forgotten was the early miscue. What people will remember about Marques Colston is his championship mettle.

“We knew coming in this was going to be a hard Super Bowl,” Colston said. “But we believed in one another and we got it done today.”

Colston is the fifth player from Hofstra to participate in the Super Bowl, joining Ricky Bryant (Patriots, 2004 season), Willie Colon (Pittsburgh, 2008), Mike D’Amato (Jets, 1968) and John Schmitt (Jets, 1968). And considering that Hofstra shuttered its football program in December, Colston will likely be the last.

Colston represented Long Island well. And on a night when the Super Bowl couldn’t have been further away from New Yorkers in body and spirit, he gave us all someone to root for.

Blog originally posted at LI