Evan Cole has had a busy week.
After playing in the Best of the South showcase at the Suwanee Sports Academy, the rising senior’s name popped up all over social media from various accounts that follow AAU basketball and college basketball recruiting closely. Playing arguably off the radar of traditional hoop heads at South Forsyth High School, Cole’s new venture as an AAU player has made a big difference in his own marketability.
Once just another lanky, 6-foot-2 wing, Cole has grown into a 6-foot-7 player with endless versatility. He can finish with both hands, play with his back to the basket and hit mid-range jumpers or slash from the wing for monster dunks. He’s active under the rim, tough as nails, fiery in nature and working on improving his perimeter shooting…which is odd considering he shot 42-percent from the 3-point line last year.
The above scouting report is also one that Cole would proudly give of himself, but there’s no hyperbole; 19 Division I colleges have offered Cole since his first, from Division II-program North Georgia, back in April.
Most recently Cole received offers from Georgia Southern, Appalachian State and Georgia State—the latter being the alma mater of both his father, Arte, and mother, April. In fact, both of his parents played for the Panthers in the early 90s when the program was a humble, bottom-feeding Division I program in the much-maligned Trans American Athletic Conference.
If Cole chooses to follow in his parent’s footsteps it won’t be a step down—not now that Georgia State is a budding mid-major powerhouse with a recent NCAA tournament victory.
“They might push me toward going there a little bit,” Cole said. “But overall they’re going to let me make my own decision.”
Just last year Cole thought his ceiling as a prospect might be a Division II program, so the newfound attention has pushed him into a mindset he never imagined before. He’s running his social media accounts as if he’s his own brand manager, sticking strictly to basketball. He admits he’s much more mature since getting in the habit of talking to college coaches and nearly every event he plays in with his AAU team, the Atlanta All-Stars.
“We travel just about every weekend,” Cole said. “The recruiting is crazy. It’s a little hectic and nerve-wracking at first but I think I’m used it to now.
“I never imagined I’d be able to play at this high of a level. I’m preparing to cut down my offers to a top-five, then make official visits and make a decision before November. I want to compete for a starting job as a freshman wherever I go.”
Balancing AAU ball and high school ball has had its pros and cons, Cole said. He knows playing at showcases has helped his name get out there, but also cherishes what he’s accomplished with the War Eagles—especially last season when they only fell by eight points to heavily-favored Norcross in the first round of a state tournament game that South was surprisingly even in, by way of a major run in the region tournament.
“Just being in that game and going up against big time players, it built my confidence up,” Cole said. “As a team, we gave Norcross everything we could, we shot the ball really well. It felt like we definitely peaked.”
South was 14-15 and 8-10 in region last year, but with an influx of new players and newfound confidence, Cole hopes he can use his senior year as an opportunity to lead the team farther than last year. Cole was also absent for the first half of last season with a torn calf, so it took a while for the team to get into its groove when he returned to the floor.
“It was hard sitting and watching everyone else play and not being able to help out,” Cole said.
In the AAU circuit Cole is used to a more intense, up-tempo game, while the high school season offers more time to execute set plays and work on his post-up game. He thinks it’s made him a more versatile and complete player.
Outside of practice, he devotes as much free time as possible to either working on his own or with teammates, as well as finding ways to bond with as many of them as possible.
Individually, he hopes he can finish as an all-state player—he models his game after one of the best in the business.
“If I have to compare myself, I think Kevin Durant,” Cole said. “He can do a lot of different things, and I think I’ve become a similar player.”