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BASKETBALL: Evans, Perkins stand tall in Gulf Coast history

Earl Evans and Kendrick Perkins

Team and individual photos of Earl Evans from his playing days at Lincoln High School were on display Saturday at the Museum of the Gulf Coast. (I.C. Murrell/The News) 12-8-18

A gallery of basketball images including Earl Evans was set up prior to his induction into the Museum of the Gulf Coast Sports Hall of Fame on Saturday. (I.C. Murrell/The News) 12-8-18

The induction poster for the late Earl Evans into the Museum of the Gulf Coast Sports Hall of Fame was unveiled Saturday. (I.C. Murrell/The News) 12-8-18

The siblings of the late Earl Evans — from left, Rita Evans, Rosie Dominic, Mary Evans Williams and Murray Evans — pose following the unveiling of Evans’ induction poster for the Museum of the Gulf Coast Sports Hall of Fame on Saturday. (I.C. Murrell/The News)

Retired NBA player Stephen Jackson, left, talks with former Port Arthur News sports editor Bob West and former Lincoln coach James Gamble before Saturday’s induction of the late Earl Evans and Kendrick Perkins to the Museum of the Gulf Coast Sports Hall of Fame. (I.C. Murrell/The News) 12-8-18

Mary Lewis, grandmother of Kendrick Perkins, lower left, is acknowledged as Perkins is inducted into the Museum of the Gulf Coast Sports Hall of Fame on Saturday. (I.C. Murrell/The News) 12-8-18

Port Arthur native and “The Voice” singer DeAndre Nico poses with Andy McCall of the Museum of the Gulf Coast on Saturday following the induction of Earl Evans and Kendrick Perkins into the museum’s Sports Hall of Fame. (I.C. Murrell/The News) 12-8-18

Kendrick Perkins wore No. 5 with the Oklahoma City Thunder and New Orleans Pelicans during his NBA career. In the background, Perkins receives a trophy from a James Gamble Award Banquet while at Ozen High School. (I.C. Murrell/The News) 12-8-18

Retired NBA player Kendrick Perkins speaks with William Barton of Beaumont before Perkins’ induction into the Museum of the Gulf Coast Sports Hall of Fame on Saturday. Perkins first met with Barton, now 23, four years ago during a visit that Barton’s father arranged at Ozen High School, Perkins’ alma mater. (I.C. Murrell/The News) 12-8-18

Kenxton Perkins, 7, pulls brother Karter, 2, away from the limelight as their father Kendrick is inducted into the Museum of the Gulf Coast Sports Hall of Fame on Saturday. (I.C. Murrell/The News) 12-8-18

Retired NBA player Kendrick Perkins receives his induction certificate into the Museum of the Gulf Coast Sports Hall of Fame from Port Arthur Historical Society executive Sam Monroe, second to left, as museum director Tom Neal holds the microphone and Perkins’ son Karter, 2, looks on Saturday. (I.C. Murrell/The News) 12-8-18

Kendrick Perkins’ high school and NBA jerseys were on display at the Museum of the Gulf Coast on Saturday. Perkins led Ozen to three UIL state championship games in what is now Class 5A, winning in 2001. (I.C. Murrell/The News)

Kendrick Perkins’ world championship ring with the Boston Celtics from 2008 was on display at the Museum of the Gulf Coast on Saturday. (I.C. Murrell/The News) 12-8-18

Kendrick Perkins’ world championship ring with the Boston Celtics from 2008 was on display at the Museum of the Gulf Coast on Saturday. (I.C. Murrell/The News) 12-8-18

Retired NBA player Kendrick Perkins smiles with his family before his induction into the Museum of the Gulf Coast on Saturday. (I.C. Murrell/The News)

Retired NBA player Kendrick Perkins poses with his Museum of the Gulf Coast Sports Hall of Fame induction poster Saturday. (I.C. Murrell/The News) 12-8-18

Standing 6-feet-10, the emotion flowed from Kendrick Perkins.

The man known for his on-the-court frowns was visibly moved before a packed room inside the Museum of the Gulf Coast.

“Take your time,” many in the crowd said, then applauded the retired 14-year NBA veteran.

“As you know, everybody that’s in here, family and friends, they played a major part in my success, on and off the court,” Perkins said Saturday during his and the late Earl Evans’ Museum of the Gulf Coast Hall of Fame induction ceremony, thinking about his late grandfather.

“I just hope I made him proud,” Perkins said.

His grandmother, Mary Lewis, raised Perkins from the time he was 5, when his mother was murdered and his father Kenneth was playing overseas. Kenneth was a standout at Lamar from 1981-85.

“I used to play basketball with him outside the house,” Lewis said.

Soon, her grandson would bloom into a Parade magazine and McDonald’s All-American drafted by the Memphis Grizzlies in the first round straight out of Beaumont’s Ozen High School in 2003. He was immediately drafted to the Boston Celtics, where he spent his first eight NBA seasons and won his only NBA title in 2008.

On Saturday, the 34-year-old shared the limelight in his adopted hometown with the family of another high school basketball great.

“Everybody always gives me a hard time because I was born in Nederland, I was raised in Beaumont, but I’m adopted in Port Arthur,” Perkins said, drawing laughs and more applause. “People always say, ‘Where are you from?’ so I say, ‘You know what? I’m from the Golden Triangle.’”

Stephen Jackson, a former NBA star who, like Evans, played at Lincoln High, surprised Perkins, whom he mentored as a high schooler. Now a studio analyst for Fox Sports, Jackson had given 100 families each a $50 gift card to Target for Christmas shopping earlier in the day.

“Our relationship is beyond basketball,” Jackson said. “He’s like a little brother to me. Both of us growing up in the area, both of us being coached by the great Andre Boutte. We have a lot of things similar, our upbringing, and once he started being coached by Boutte, I embraced him as a little brother and I was in his wedding when he married Vanity [née Alpough]. I’ve been knowing her since she was a child in Port Arthur.”

Boutte is now head coach at West Brook. Ozen recently merged with Central to form Beaumont United.

William Barton, 23, of Beaumont made sure to wear his favorite player’s No. 43 Celtics jersey to the induction. Barton first met Perkins when Barton was 19 after his father made arrangements at Ozen.

“[Perkins] joked with me that I didn’t have a Kendrick Perkins jersey or T-shirt of him, so that’s why I’m wearing this if he can remember that day,” said Barton, who attended with his mother Sandra.

Evans, nicknamed “The Pearl,” was ranked the second-best high school player only behind future Houston Rocket Moses Malone when he wrapped up a stellar career at Lincoln in 1974. He averaged 28.6 points and 19.5 rebounds per game as a senior, then began his collegiate career at Southern California before transferring to UNLV.

“Earl was the best player in Southeast Texas in the 1970s,” said T.C. Comeaux, one of Evans’ teammates at Lincoln. “People don’t understand, but Earl was responsible for major colleges coming down to this area for basketball players for that time.”

Evans was such a gem on the basketball court because he could play every position, Comeaux said. When they were eighth-graders, Evans played guard and could “jump out the gym.”

“We didn’t lose any basketball games in the eighth grade,” said Kervin Eli, another of Evans’ teammates. “So, coach [James] Gamble couldn’t wait until we got to Lincoln.”

Under hall-of-fame coach Jerry Tarkanian, Evans poured in 17.9 points per game as a senior in 1978-79, according to the Las Vegas Review-Journal. He scored a career-high 37 points against Idaho State and led the Rebels — who had reached the 1977 Final Four during his transfer year — to a two-year record of 41-16.

A lingering ankle injury caused Evans to lose his starting role at USC, leading to his transfer. Drafted in the eighth round by the Detroit Pistons in 1978 as a “future,” meaning at the time he could join the franchise after finishing his college career, Evans was limited to 36 games in his only professional season due to injury and retired. He died of an apparent heart attack on Dec. 24, 2012, at age 57, at his home in Edmond, Oklahoma.

Gamble, who coached at Lincoln from 1963-88 and again during the 1998-99 season, often says Evans was the best player he ever coached.

“He was highly skilled, number one, and he had a perfect size for a high school player,” Gamble said. “In high school, he was 6-6, 6-7. Basketball was his first love, so it made it easy to coach him because he had a lot of other problems other people don’t understand. Outstanding players, for some reason, there are some hurdles in our lives that we have to overcome, and I think that might be why they develop into outstanding athletes.”

Shortly after Evans was inducted, most of the crowd stood for Lincoln’s alma mater song, which was played during a video tribute to Evans. Rosie Dominic, one of Evans’ three sisters, announced a scholarship fund would be established in Evans’ memory for the Memorial High class of 2020.

Both Evans and Perkins shared all-star stages with soon-to-be NBA superstars.

Evans had 21 points and 11 rebounds going head-to-head against Larry Bird in the 1979 Pizza Hut All-Star Classic, but Bird, whose Indiana State team finished second to Magic Johnson and Michigan State in the NCAA championship, was named the game’s MVP.

Perkins played in the McDonald’s game 24 years later with LeBron James, who won that event’s MVP award in Cleveland. Perkins spent the latter part of the 2014-15 season with James on the Cleveland Cavaliers, who lost the NBA Finals that year to the Golden State Warriors. James’ Miami Heat beat Perkins’ Oklahoma City Thunder for the 2012 title.

Museum director Tom Neal said he was excited about the induction before Perkins’ and Evans’ families came to the downtown Port Arthur facility.

“People don’t realize the importance of this,” Neal said. “People come to the museum from all over the world. What’s even more important, we get a lot of our grade-school kids from all over the area. They see people like Kendrick Perkins and Earl Evans, and they see they come from this area and amount to something. To really have a great career, it challenges them to do the same as they grow older.”

I.C. Murrell: 721-2435. Twitter: @ICMurrellPANews

 

NBA statistics

Earl Evans

Detroit Pistons, 1979-80 (played 36 games)

  • Career: 4.4 points, 2.1 rebounds, 1 assist per game; 45 percent field-goal shooting; 57.1 percent free-throw shooting

 

Kendrick Perkins

Boston Celtics, 2003-11 (2008 NBA champion); Oklahoma City Thunder, 2010-15 (2012 NBA finalist); Cleveland Cavaliers, 2014-15 (played 17 games); New Orleans Pelicans, 2015-16; free agent, 2016-17; Canton Charge (NBA G League), 2017-18; Cavaliers, 2018 (played 1 game)

  • Career: 5.4 points, 5.8 rebounds, 1.2 blocks per game; 53 percent field-goal shooting, 59.4 percent free-throw shooting

About I.C. Murrell

I.C. Murrell was promoted to editor of The News, effective Oct. 14, 2019. He previously served as sports editor since August 2015 and has won or shared eight first-place awards from state newspaper associations and corporations. He was born in Memphis, Tennessee, grew up mostly in Pine Bluff, Arkansas, and graduated from the University of Arkansas at Monticello.

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