January 13, 2010

Bakersfield Duo on the Rise

Kevin McCarthy

Think Bakersfield and oil comes to mind, along with agriculture. Hoops? Not high on the list. Yes, a few basketballers have come out of B-Town, even some former NBA-ers, but it’s not known as a ground central location for college recruiters. However, there is a pair of 2009-2010 seniors at Ridgeview High definitely worthy of attention, young men who possess the potential to make a solid living playing hoops in the future. But first it’s a matter of finishing strong in the classroom and on the court and then carefully mapping out the next step.

We are talking about 6-foot-8 Kaylin Evans and 6-foot-4 Robert Roberts. Evans is a pogo stick whose arms seem to extend forever and Roberts has a combination of superb athleticism partnered with a bountiful all-around skills set.

photo of Kaylin Evans Kaylin Evans

The former is hauling in close to 15 boards a game as well as rejecting just under eight opponent shots a contest. The number of “intimidations” isn’t tracked by the Ridgeview statisticians but it’s at least in the teens for Evans. He is also scoring 15 points each time out.

Roberts is tops in scoring for the Wolf Pack, coming close to 20 points a game and contributing in every aspect possible on the court.

The duo is coached at Ridgeview by Bobby Sharp, a self-professed “hacker” while prepping at Highland High in Bakersfield a couple of decades back and someone who got a taste of junior college ball and then continued to feed his basketball jones with mentoring in the gym and on the sidelines at Boise State and in the junior college ranks. Here he is on Evans and Roberts:

"Kaylin is long and athletic with a tremendously bright future, a high ceiling," Sharp offered. "There is no cap for him. He busts his behind on the court and has fallen in love with the weight room." Sharp describes his frontcourter as wiry strong.

In fact, UCLA has recently been in touch with Sharp regarding Evans. Nevada and others have also expressed interest.

But there is a catch.

Evans may not meet the NCAA mandated core class requirements, thus the need to travel the community college route. That certainly has the junior college coaches in the region salivating.

As for Roberts, Sharp brings up the name Chris Childs, a longtime NBA player -- 11 seasons -- who came out of Bakersfield and played at Boise State in the late 1980s.

photo of Robert Roberts Robert Roberts

"Robert is a better prospect than Chris Childs -- he is the best I’ve seen in my 25 years of coaching. There is nothing he can’t do. Robert can jump out of the gym, drops 3’s and take it to the basket and finish at the rim. He rotates on D and understands help side defense. Plus, he plays unselfishly."

With Roberts, it’s been academics that have proven to be the biggest hurdle.

He started as a freshman and averaged a double-double. Grades sidelined him in his sophomore season. An injury his junior year led to a loss of focus and another season in street clothes.

But now he is back, having re-gained the opportunity to be on the court by hitting the books and sticking with it.

Roberts recently told Sharp regarding his academic achievement, "Coach, I did it, I proved to myself that I could do it."

Sharp calls Roberts "as nice a kid as you would ever want to meet," adding "I think this [being eligible] is going to change his life."

But it looks like the young man will also need to follow the junior college route to D-1. As expected, the line of community college coaches desiring the opportunity to have Roberts in their respective lineups is lengthy.

The overall development of Evans and Roberts, as well as the other Ridgeview players, is what Sharp sees as his mission. "A few guys make a living playing basketball but everyone else goes professional in something else. My job is to help these kids be successful, to develop them into quality young men. The character traits of participating in a team sport, these concepts carry over into real life. Life is a team thing."

Wise words indeed.