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After a historic season averaging 20.1 points, 5.3 rebounds 5.8 assists and 1.5 steals per game, Sacramento Kings guard Tyreke Evans will be named the 2009-10 NBA Rookie of the Year (ROY).
The 20-year-old Chester, Pa. native became the first Kings player to win a postseason award since Bobby Jackson won the Sixth Man of the Year award in 2003 and the fifth rookie in franchise history to win the ROY award.
Maurice Stokes of the Rochester Royals, Oscar Robertson and Jerry Lucas of the Cincinnati Royals and Phil Ford of the Kansas City Kings were the first four. Evans is the first of to win the award in the Sacramento era.
He also became the fourth rookie to average 20 points, five rebounds and five assists per game (20-5-5). The first three were Robertson, the Chicago Bulls' Michael Jordan and the Cleveland Cavaliers’ LeBron James.
Robertson and Jordan became basketball hall of famers, and James is one of the top players in the NBA.
Evans became the second-straight Memphis University alum to win the award. Derrick Rose of the Chicago Bulls won last year's award.
He also beat the Golden State Warriors' Stephen Curry and the Milwaukee Bucks’ Brandon Jennings, who were contenders for the award.
Before Evans won the award, Kings President of Basketball Operations Geoff Petrie explained what the ROY award would mean for him.
"I think it's certainly a validation of Tyreke's play over the course of the entire year," he said. "He certainly helped elevate our team and give it some great promise for the future going forward. Hopefully, his play at both ends of the court will be rewarded."
The Kings had the best chance at the No.1 pick in the 2009 NBA Draft but fell to the No.4 pick in the lottery, the worst-case scenario.
The Kings picked Evans after Blake Griffin was taken by the Los Angeles Clippers, Hasheem Thabeet was taken by the Memphis Grizzlies and James Harden was taken by the Oklahoma City Thunder.
Griffin never played a game due to a knee injury, Thabeet became the highest drafted player to be sent to the National Basketball Developmental League and Harden became a role player for the Thunder.
Evans impressed in the Las Vegas Summer League, averaging 19.2 points, 6.2 rebounds, 4.2 assists and a steal per game for five games.
Evans earned the starting point guard job, replacing incumbent Beno Udrih. In the home opener, the Kings’ leading scorer, Kevin Martin, was injured.
The team learned after the next game that his wrist was broken and the injury forced him to miss the next 32 games.
During the very next game, Evans exploded for 32 points and seven assists in a 104-99 upset win over the Utah Jazz.
He won two Western Conference Rookie of the Month awards for October/November and December, leading the Kings to a 13-13 record since Martin's injury.
Evans has been the best player on the Kings and became a go-to player late in games. He scored the game-winning lay-up on Dec.19 in Milwaukee with less than a second remaining in the game.
Two nights later, he scored the last nine of 11 points of the game for the Kings and helped his team come back from a 35-point deficit in Chicago to defeat the Bulls 102-98. It was the second-largest comeback in NBA history.
The largest comeback occurred in 1996 when the Utah Jazz overcame a 36-point deficit against the Denver Nuggets.
On Jan. 9, Evans hit his second game-winner of the season to help beat the Nuggets.
Evans and with teammate Omri Casspi were the first Kings since Brad Miller and Peja Stojakovic in 2004 to participate in an All-Star event.
Both were selected to start for the Rookie team in the T-Mobil Rookie Challenge in Dallas. The Rookies beat the Sophomores for the first time in eight years by a score of 140-128.
Evans won the Most Valuable Player award for the game, posting 26 points, six rebounds, five assists and five steals.
Evans also played with Team Sacramento in the Haier Shooting Stars competition with former King Chris Webber and former Sacramento Monarch and current New York Liberty forward Nicole Powell. Team Sacramento finished in third place.
After All-Star Weekend, the Kings traded Martin to the Rockets in a three-team trade with the New York Knicks for Carl Landry and Joey Dorsey, re-enforcing their belief in Evans as part of their future.
On March 10, on a night dedicated to him called Rally for RekeROY (Tyreke Evans for Rookie of the Year) Night, Evans earned his first career triple-double against the Toronto Raptors with 19 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists in a 113-90 win.
Only 17 other players recorded a triple-double this season, including Evans' teammate Beno Udrih.
"It was really exciting to see Tyreke have such a fitting night," Kings Head Coach Paul Westphal said after the game. "There are a lot of (good) rookies this year. For this year, it's not even close (for the rookie of the year award)."
In a poll of 173 NBA players conducted by "Sports Illustrated", Lakers teammates Kobe Bryant and Ron Artest were voted the two toughest defenders in the league.
On March 16, Evans was guarded by both of those players in different times of the game and played exceptionally well.
Evans had a near triple-double with 25 points, 11 rebounds and nine assists in the 106-99 loss to the Lakers.
In his first match-up against Evans on Dec. 26, Bryant was already impressed by him.
"Tyreke Evans is going to be a hell of a player," he said after he first played against. "(The Kings start) with him, so he has a really bright future."
For most of the season, Evans was on pace to average 20-5-5. On April 12, he secured that milestone in the second-to-last game of the season by scoring 24 points in a 117-107 loss to the Houston Rockets, but it wasn't easy for him.
"That was the hardest basket I ever had to get in my life," he said after the game. "I was trying to get it done in the first half and get it over with. I never knew that I would come into the NBA and average 20-5-5.
"I watched the game a lot growing up, watching (Anfernee) "Penny" Hardaway. Now actually being here, seeing what it's like, it's just a dream come true."
Only two other players in the NBA finished with 20-5-5 this season – James and Bryant.
After the season was over, Evans was one of three players to receive an invite to Team USA Basketball's mini-camp for a chance to compete in the FIBA World Championships in Turkey this summer.
Evans was consistent from the start of the season and has become one of the players in the NBA, earning the respect of 16-year veteran point guard Jason Kidd.
"He has all the skills," the Dallas Mavericks point guard said. "He has the talent to take over the game in scoring and being able to find guys."
Although there was debate that Curry and Jennings were also deserving of the ROY award, the Kings rookie would be the one to receive his crown.
Read Martin McNeal's thoughts on the ROY award here.
Points: 34 Jan. 18 at Charlotte Bobcats
Rebounds: 11 rebounds (4 times) last March 16 vs, Los Angeles Lakers
Assists: 13 (twice) last March 31 at Minnesota
Steals: 4 (twice) last March 30 at Indiana
Blocks: 3 (3 times) last Jan.18 at Charlotte Bobcats
Category: Rank, (Rank Among Rookies)
Points per game: 16th (1st)
Rebounds per game (among guards): 4th (1st)
Assists per game: 15th (2nd)
Steals per game: 16th (2nd)
Blocks per game (among guards): 15th (1st)
Oct./Nov. 2009 NBA Rookie of the Month
Dec. 2009 NBA Rookie of the Month
2010 T-Mobile Rookie Challenge Most Valuable Player
2010 Haier Shooting Stars Participant
Fourth rookie to average 20 points, five rebounds and five assists per game
Team USA Basketball 2010 mini-camp invite
2009-10 NBA Rookie of the Year
Photo Credit: Jonathan Mendick