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Cal Poly Women's Basketball Senior Spotlight: Mary Kate Evans

Cal Poly Women's Basketball Senior Spotlight: Mary Kate Evans

Having overcome a meniscus tear and a stress fracture at different points of her basketball career, Cal Poly's Mary Kate Evans has spent her fair share of time in doctors' offices.

According to those who know her best, it may not be long before Evans herself is the one on the cutting edge of the latest research for injury prevention and rehabilitation.

"I started out in environmental engineering, and it was a cool major but I kind of knew it wasn't a good fit," Evans recalled. "With all the injuries and going through X-Rays and MRIs, I thought it'd be cool to do something more with the body and sports, and then I found biomedical engineering."

"At first I wasn't entirely sure what (biomedical engineering) was," Evans continues, "but as I progressed through the major I really fell in love with it."

The recipient of Cal Poly's Scholar-Athlete of the Year Award in 2017, Evans has now earned Dean's List honors for 10 consecutive quarters.

"I've said it before and her teammates say it: We wouldn't be shocked at all if she won a Nobel Prize," Cal Poly head coach Faith Mimnaugh states. "She could do anything. She could lead companies; she could be a CEO; she could discover a cure for cancer — I mean, really, she could do anything."

A Big West Commissioner's Highest Honors List member, Evans has also made the conference all-academic team every year after initially redshirting. All the while, Evans has made 110 appearances in a Mustang uniform.

Now a senior, Evans has started 19 games and ranks No. 9 in the Big West in 3-point shooting percentage (.393), averaging 4.6 points and 2.8 rebounds while also shooting .750 from the free-throw line.

At 6-foot-2 with range extending beyond the arc, Evans' versatility has proven invaluable, Mimnaugh commented.

"She's a special player in that she can move flawlessly between the 2, the 3 and the 4, and she's even had to defend at the 5 for us," Mimnaugh said. "There are just so many benefits from having somebody that has guard skills and size and obviously great 3-point shooting ability."

"Those are probably the biggest keys: the multi-positional ability she presents," Mimnaugh said. "And her ability to space the court has really enabled the (Leaupepe) twins to operate a little bit more. Because (opposing defenses) really have to respect Mary Kate at the 3-point line, it optimizes their potential to get to the basket."

Since Big West play began, Evans is shooting .482 (27-for-56) from behind the 3-point line, ranking No. 2 throughout the conference for league play.

"It was just something I realized coming in that I could contribute," Evans said looking back, "but I had a lot of work to do, so I think just getting up that many shots, it finally accumulated to be enough to where I can contribute even more to the team."

Growing up 15 minutes north of campus in Atascadero, Evans remembers coming to numerous Mustang games as a kid, many of which saw her in the stands cheering on current Mustang director of operations Kristina Santiago.

"My dad used to bring me to games all the time, and throughout high school I came to as many as I could," Evans said with a smile. "I was like (Santiago's) biggest fan."

As a junior for Atascadero High, Evans led the Greyhounds into the quarterfinals of the CIF Southern Section Division 3A playoffs, averaging 20.8 points and 13.0 rebounds over her preceding 17-game stretch. It was in the quarterfinal stage, however, that she suffered the knee injury prematurely putting an end to her season.

Then, after returning from surgery and the accompanying six-month rehabilitation process from the meniscus tear, bad luck struck again — this time in the form of a foot injury sustained early in the league portion of her senior year.

Following metatarsal surgery, Evans used her first year of college to redshirt.

Now a fifth-year "Super Senior," Evans celebrated her 23rd birthday this past weekend in Hawai'i. Reaching the end of a longer journey, she's grateful for the extra time redshirting provided her to spend at Cal Poly.

"Senior Night has to be up there as one of the most memorable nights that I've had in my life," Evans said. "Having all the people that have supported me throughout my entire career all in one place in the same night, it was really special."

Scheduled to graduate in the spring, Evans plans to soon begin pursuing a Ph.D.

Although she hasn't quite settled on a certain postgraduate program, she says she could possibly envision herself in labs focused in orthopedics or sports medicine.

In February, Evans was selected for CoSIDA Academic All-Region honors, making her one of just 12 student-athletes from 46 Division I schools around California, Arizona, Washington, Oregon, Nevada, Utah and Hawai'i to earn a spot.

"It's astounding what she's doing," Mimnaugh added. "I'm just so proud of her."

"She is someone who wants to be great at every single thing that she touches. Her tendency as a human being is to try be perfect at everything, and she comes pretty doggone close," Mimnaugh said. "Really, she could do anything. The sky's the limit."

Photos © Alexander Bohlen & David E. Holmes

The Mustangs (17-11, 11-5) have earned a double-bye into the Big West Tournament semifinals. They'll face the highest-remaining seed to emerge from the opening two rounds, returning to the floor at 2:30 p.m. Friday, March 9 at the Honda Center in Anaheim.

Tickets are available both through TicketMaster and the Cal Poly Box Office, at (805) 756-4849 or Tickets.CalPoly.edu. ESPN3 will broadcast the tournament's first three days, before FOX Sports Prime Ticket will televise the championship game.

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