North Dakota

Bison may have struck recruiting gold with freshman Elle Evans – InForum

FARGO — With each Division I season ending, usually with a losing record, the state of North Dakota hit the recruiting path for women’s basketball in hopes of enlisting a few players who would change the direction of the program. Or maybe at least a player.

There were hopefuls and some made decent careers. But ever since the Bison qualified for the Division I tournament in 2008, catching players like South Dakota or South Dakota State in the Summit League has been a pipe dream.

Reality seems to be getting closer and for reason #1, if you haven’t already, we’re introducing Elle Evans to you. She is a 6ft 3 guard who can handle the ball, shoot 3 and play defense.

“We’re building something special here,” Evans said. “I think we showed it a bit but the ceiling is so high with this group. So I look forward to continuing to show people what we can do.”

Evans is averaging 12.5 points per game with USD coming to the Scheels Center on Thursday night. Never before has NDSU had a true freshman in the school’s Division I era at this rate. Guard Katie Birkel averaged 10.0 points per game and started in all 29 games in 2008/09. Guard Sarah Jacobson averaged 9.1 points and 3.5 assists in 2016-17.

However, these two didn’t have the general play and matchup problem that the taller Evans present to opponents. She has reached double digits in 16 of NDSU’s 20 games and played 30+ minutes in 12 games, second behind top scorer Heaven Hamling.

She averages 4.7 rebounds, shoots 81% from the free throw line, and has 24 blocks in shots. Perhaps the only mystery is her 9.7 points per game in her senior year of high school in Edwardsville, Illinois.

It’s unusual for a true freshman to top his high school average.

“She was just so selfless,” said Caty Happe, her coach at Edwardsville High School. “When we needed buckets, she got them. She guarded the best kid on the other team. Obviously games in college are a bit longer and the shot clock makes a difference, but if she wanted to she could have averaged 20 per game.


North Dakota State’s Elle Evans goes for a basket against Western Illinois during their basketball game Monday, December 19, 2022 at the Sanford Health Athletic Complex at the Scheels Center in Fargo.

Alyssa Goelzer/The Forum

Evans wasn’t needed to score in Edwardsville, who plays top tier in Illinois and finished 29-5 last year. She had two high school teammates starting for Division I programs this season: Macy Silvey at Southern Illinois-Edwardsville and Sydney Harris, who is Central Michigan’s top scorer averaging 17.2 points per game.

Harris received the most honors at Edwardsville High with more than 2,000 career points and was an All-State selection twice. Evans was an all-conference selection.

“I thought it would be a steal for the state of North Dakota to get them to be honest,” Happe said. “I know she’s been watched by Power Five schools and things like that but she loves the trainer, she wanted to go north so I expected her to make an immediate impact and I’m glad she did fine the way she is.”

Harris and Evans challenged it in early December when the bison traveled to Central Michigan. Evans had 17 points playing every 40 minutes. Harris had 21 points in 39 minutes, including three free throws with a second remaining, giving CMU a 66-65 win.

“It was great to see her, but not the result we wanted,” Evans said. “It was nice to play against them at the next level.”

Evans came onto the scene during her second season in Edwardsville, although it likely went unnoticed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Tigers could only play schools in a limited area of ​​the city.

“When that happened and it was taken away, she knew what she wanted to do,” Happe said. “She worked so hard.”

Evans said she went through a growth spurt that year and that helped her think she could do something with basketball.

“It was like, I can really do this and be great,” she said. “Before, I just did it for fun. Basketball was the only sport I played so I loved the game, but whenever I reached that tipping point my love really blossomed and it just took off from there.”

NDSU arrived in the spring before their senior year, and the fact that the bison were among the first to pay attention eventually paid off. Evans had a great summer on the AAU circuit that caught the attention of others.

She had scholarship offers from Virginia Tech and Colorado.

“But I kind of knew for myself that the best program for me would probably be a high-mid major program,” she said. “I got stuck on that. I’ve given (other schools) a few looks, but I knew deep down that I wanted to be here.”


“I think for me as a player, the person that I wanted to bring as a freshman and my younger college years, I wanted to get that experience on the court and I kind of knew I could potentially do that on the high mid- Major level,” Evans said. “And it was great for me with the relationships and the community and when I came here for my visit everything clicked and that was it.”

NDSU lost freshman guard Leah Mackenzie to injury in the preseason, and that put more emphasis on Evans contributing immediately.

“I think she’s a huge talent and is lucky to be in the green and gold,” said Bison head coach Jory Collins. “I think what she can do offensively at that level and where her opportunities are, I mean the sky’s the limit on what she can be.”


North Dakota State’s Elle Evans aims to pass while being guarded by Omaha’s Akili Felici during their basketball game Saturday, January 14, 2023 at the Sanford Health Athletic Complex at the Scheels Center in Fargo.

Alyssa Goelzer/The Forum

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