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Syracuse Lacrosse: In defense of Jordan Evans

Jordan Evans has been plagued by the high expectations which he has been saddled by his entire career. It might be time to reset the needle.

NCAA Football: Louisville at Syracuse Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

Jordan Evans has, for some time now, been an enigma for Syracuse Orange fans.

I certainly have been critical, at times, of Evans and his turnovers. It has never been the number of turnovers but the timing at which they have come. Nevertheless, he has been a producer for this team.

The Daily Orange published an article grading the midpoint performance of the 2017 SU lacrosse team. Lacrosse writer Charlie DiSturco, who has done a great job covering the team this year, noted Jordan Evans as his biggest disappointment. DiSturco is absolutely correct that this year was supposed to be Jordan’s big year and there is no doubt that the expectations were elevated by the coaching staff for his senior season.

Here is the statistical comparison for Evans in 2016 and 2017 through 6 games. Keep in mind, SU had the exact same schedule through the first six matches.

Jordan Evans Year-Over-Year

G-A-P Shots (%) SOG (%) GB CT TO PIM
G-A-P Shots (%) SOG (%) GB CT TO PIM
9-3-12 27 (.333) 21 (.778) 10 3 12 1:00
7-9-16 20 (.350) 14 (.700) 13 2 6 0

Sure, he has two fewer goals this year, but Evans has also tripled his assist numbers through six games. The biggest difference though has been the turnovers. Evans has cut the number of turnovers through six games in half. There have been times in which we have seen Evans not force plays in which he would have last year. It’s clear he has matured as a lacrosse player.

That being said, I am not going to sit here and tell you that the senior has blown me away this season. There is definitely ground to stand on to make the claim that he has been a disappointment, at least in relation to the expectations that have surrounded him.

But that pretty much sums up Jordan Evans’ career, or at least the way it has been perceived, at Syracuse, doesn’t it? A local product, Evans arrived at SU as the number one overall prospect and was given the famed #22. High school coaches had incredible things to say about him, including his own coach who compared him to the Powell brothers.

Coming into 2017, Evans was slated as the quarterback for this team’s offense, a position held last year by Dylan Donahue and in years prior by Kevin Rice. I’m sure following in the footsteps of two, 200 plus point scorers is not intimidating at all. I mean come on, we are talking about two of the greatest offensive threats to ever play in the Carrier Dome.

But that’s what we did as a whole. We set expectations monstrously high and assumed he would reach them, just as we did when he arrived at Syracuse.

In reality however, what is it about Jordan Evans’ on-field play at Syracuse that could have rationally led anyone to believe he would be a big assist threat or a fifty or sixty or how-ever-many point scorer this year? Was it his 35 points last season? Or how about his 27 turnovers in 2016? Or his 11 career assists coming into 2017? Of course not. It was the number on his jersey, the echo chamber surrounding his skill set (and I am not completely immune from this), and his recruiting rating coming into his freshman year. That’s it. Yes, he set records at Jamesville-Dewitt. He was a great high school player. And just so I’m clear, 27 goals against the kind of competition Syracuse faces is nothing to sneeze at and neither is the fact that he had at least one goal in 14 of 15 games last year. But he is not a Powell, a Kevin Rice, nor a Dylan Donahue. He is a good offensive player who has clearly worked hard to improve his play each year.

That is it, and that is fine.

I started covering lacrosse back in college. I graduated and continued to cover the college game in Boston before taking a brief hiatus in my first and second years of law school, but picked it back up during my 3L year writing for this website. I’ve been a member of the media in countless press conferences for hockey and lacrosse at all different levels.

I will say that the 2010 presser following the NCAAT loss to Army was very tough to be at, but for me it was the 2014 press conference after the NCAAT loss to Bryant that really got to me. The players were upset, obviously, but it was the demeanor of Chris Daddio that hit me the hardest. In the record book, Daddio is tied for sixth in the most faceoff wins in a game, and his 2014 season is ranked 11th all time in wins in a season having been pushed out of the top-ten by two Ben Williams seasons. Overall, Daddio is still fifth all time in career wins. No doubt his statistics were better than his play but throughout his 2014 season, and for a good chunk of his career, Daddio had taken the brunt of the criticism for any SU loss or failure highlighted by the 2013 National Championship game against Duke when Daddio went 0-4 at the X and the Orange went 9-30 overall and 3-20 in the first three periods (check out Chris Carlson’s article on the situation). Yet he took that criticism, and he did it in stride. The emotion of that burden certainly was visible in that final press conference.

I always felt bad for the way that Daddio was treated by the SU lacrosse community. After all, he was just a college kid. Maybe that’s why I feel the need to defend Evans at this point. I don’t think he deserves to become the goat for this 2017 year, and I am not trying to single out the Daily Orange or DiSturco because it’s really not about that one statement. We are all guilty of the elevated expectations set for Evans. I think he’s improved, but that can mostly be seen outside of the stat sheet. So why don’t we start over and clear the expectations off of the blackboard.

For the rest of this season, I want to see Jordan Evans continue to be enough of a threat to take some pressure off of Bomberry, Mariano, and Salcido. I want him to continue to take care of the ball, as he’s done a better job of thus far in the season. If he finishes with 35 points again, then great! And if he finishes with 15 goals and 15 assists and keeps the turnover numbers down while not making some of the mistakes we saw early in his career then I will be happy with that too. Ask any lacrosse coach in America and I’m sure that each will tell you that the player who sets the pick to allow his teammate to get open for the game winning shot is just as important as the player who takes that shot.

Hopefully this hasn’t come off as me begrudgingly lowering expectations of a player who I perceive to be underperforming while taking an underhanded shot at him, because I don’t mean it to be. I also don’t mean it as a shot towards any other folks who cover this team day in and day out. I simply mean it as a reminder that expectations can be a dangerous thing. Those players who show up each day and put in the effort to improve their game deserve our thanks for allowing us as fans to enjoy such great games as we’ve seen this year. They do not deserve to be singled out and made into a punching bag, as we did to Chris Daddio several years ago.

Jordan Evans is not a Powell. He is not a Kevin Rice and he is not a Dylan Donahue. That’s ok, because only five players are. Jordan Evans is Jordan Evans. The sooner we are able to arrive at that conclusion, the sooner we will be able to properly appreciate his contributions to this program.