Tearful HHS basketball standout signs with MU
HUNTINGTON -- As Huntington High girls basketball player Kiana Evans got ready to sign her National Letter of Intent on Thursday afternoon, she couldn't help being overcome with emotion.
Evans was happy, but there was a certain pain behind the tears flowing down her cheeks.
It was the pain of a difficult past.
It was the pain of overcoming her own struggles.
And it was the pain of working hard every day to make sure her future wouldn't hold the same struggles.
On Thursday, all the struggles and hard work paid off in a big-time reward.
In front of family and friends, she signed to play NCAA Division I basketball at Marshall University.
"It's relieving to get it over with and know that you have somewhere to go," Evans said. "It feels really good. I'm really happy about this opportunity to play at home in front of everybody and go D-I. It's great.
"My hard work -- I've been through a lot and it's crazy that I've made it this far and that I'm here now. I'm proud of myself."
Evans came into the Huntington High program as a quiet kid with an infectious smile but very little confidence, head coach Lonnie Lucas said.
When her aunt was working, she would ride home from practices and games with Lucas, and they became very close.
"Since she was a freshman, every place I went, she went," Lucas said. "If I wanted to go scout a ball game, she wanted to go too. We got to where she could tell me what was going on in her life if she wanted to. She wanted to keep it on a coach-player level and stayed to herself for a while, but she knew if she had a problem, she could always lean on me."
Evans said she was grateful for Lucas' influence on not only her basketball career, but her life. For her, it's much bigger than just a coach-player relationship.
"I love Coach Lucas," Evans said. "He's like my Dad or grandpa or something. He's always there for me and I can go to him for anything I need. I don't know what I would do without him. If I didn't have Coach Lucas, who knows where I'd be going or if I'd be going to school to play basketball."
Evans is now focused on trying to lead the Highlanders back to the state tournament for another season and hopefully, earning Lucas a state championship before she heads off to Marshall.
While that is her focus right now, she said her future is in good hands at Marshall under new coach Matt Daniel.
"Coach Daniel is a funny guy and honestly, he's a big reason why I'm going to Marshall," Evans said. "He's a great person and I feel like he's going to be a good coach. He was the most honest with me. He told me if I wanted to play, it was up to me and how hard I work."
For the first time during the tear-filled event, Evans smiled after finishing the statement about hard work.
After all, that is what brought her to this point.