Bakari Evelyn has long felt a connection to the Iowa basketball program.
That connection was officially made Thursday afternoon when Iowa men’s basketball coach Fran McCaffery announced that Evelyn was joining the program for the 2019-20 season as a graduate transfer.
Evelyn tweeted last month that he was joining the Hawkeyes for his final season of collegiate eligibility. The Detroit native averaged 8.4 points while starting 14 games for Valparaiso last season.
“Iowa has been a recurring thing,” Evelyn said Thursday afternoon. “When I was in high school (current Iowa assistant coach) Sherman Dillard recruited me when he was at Michigan. Then when I was coming out of prep school, they wanted me to come there and redshirt. I wanted to play right away, so I went to Nebraska. Then coming out of Valpo, they were right there again. It’s been consistent.”
Evelyn breaks new ground for McCaffery, becoming the first graduate transfer that the longtime coach has welcomed at Iowa.
“We are thrilled to have Bakari join our program,” McCaffery said in a statement released by the school. "He’s a veteran who can play multiple positions. He can score and defend. Bakari will bring a presence to our program that we are excited about.”
McCaffery is known as an intense coach on the sidelines and Evelyn was also viewed as a demonstrative player during his time with the Crusaders. Evelyn is excited for the opportunity to play for McCaffery, even if he has seen another side of the coach already.
“He’s actually the opposite of how he’s often portrayed,” Evelyn said. “I’ve sat with him in his office a couple times and he’s a pretty mellow guy. He’s not what people see during games. What I know for sure is that he fights for his players. He has the back of his team and his players. He’s a coach you want to play for.”
Evelyn becomes the fourth Valparaiso transfer of the offseason to officially find a new home. Derrik Smits (Butler), Jaume Sorolla (Cincinnati) and Markus Golder (Portland State) have all been announced by their new schools. Micah Bradford has yet to commit to a new program.
“All of us guys are pretty close,” Evelyn said. “I saw Derrik when I was working out in Arizona and Jay and I talk all the time. We play Cincinnati at the United Center this year, so we’ve been going back and forth about that. We’ve all been really supportive of each other. I want to see all those guys do the best.”
Evelyn added that he continues to stay in touch with current members of the Valparaiso program. Evelyn was plagued by a recurring ankle injury last season with the Crusaders and that played a role into a disappointing season for the guard who was projected to be one of the top players in the Missouri Valley Conference.
“Everything happens for a reason,” Evelyn said when asked if he had regrets about the 2018-19 season. “There were goals that we had and goals that I had that we didn’t meet. That said, I enjoyed my time at Valpo. I learned a lot and I grew a lot as a person.”