Gary seizes opportunities, dreams big

Jessica Imbimbo, Assistant Editor

Evrik Gary, a 6’2’’ senior point guard for the Francis Marion University (FMU) men’s basketball team, has been a standout player for the Patriots during his four-year career as a starter.

Gary has started in all but one game in his four years as a Patriot and is averaging nearly 20 points per game this season, but Gary didn’t get to where he is by luck.  Through both hard work and big opportunities, Gary plans to make his dream to play in the NBA a reality.

The Camden, SC native played a lot of sports as a kid including baseball, football and tennis.  It was basketball, however, that captured his heart.

“I started playing when I was four or five years old,” Gary said.  “It was something different.  That was what I really liked about it.”

Gary was influenced by his mother, aunt and cousins to continue playing basketball as he got older.  Gary said his mother and aunt were the “basketball stars” of the family and that his cousins helped him to play tough despite his small stature.

“My cousins were older and bigger than I was,” Gary said.  “I think that’s why when I play guys now that are bigger than me and they try to push me around, it doesn’t really bother me.”

Gary started playing competitively in the seventh grade at Camden Middle School, though he didn’t get much playing time.  At Camden High School, Gary played on the junior varsity team his freshman year, and then moved up to varsity.  Still, he wasn’t seeing as much court time as he wanted.  It wasn’t until halfway through his junior year’s season that Gary got the chance to play.

“One of the guys on my team got into some trouble, so I had to step in for him…I proved to everyone that I could produce on the court,” Gary said.

During his senior season in high school, Gary started every game and helped his team win a state championship.Gary had many college offers coming out of high schoolincluding many schools in the Peach Belt Conference (PBC) such as the University of South Carolina- Aiken and Lander University.  The ones that peaked the most interest, however, were FMU and Winthrop, a Division I university in Rock Hill, SC.

“At first, I was really hung up about going to a Division I school, but FMU was closer to home and it was important to me that my family could be there to watch my games,” Gary said.

Gary was redshirted his freshman year, which means that though he was still a member of the basketball team, he wasn’t allowed to participate in games during the season.  Gary Edwards, head coach of the men’s basketball team, said the decision to redshirt Gary was a positive one.

“[Gary] used that year to get off to a good start academically and gain strength athletically,” Edwards said.  “He worked extremely hard and just kept getting better on the court and in the classroom.”

By his sophomore year, Gary was given an opportunity to prove that he could produce on the court, and once again, he did not disappoint.  He scored 306 points in that season alone and has only continued to improve in nearly every category since. This season, Gary is ranked in the top 10 for the Peach Belt Conference (PBC) in 10 different categories including total points, points per game and three-point percentage.

“His career can serve as a blueprint for South Carolina high school students who wish to be successful at the NCAA Division II level,” Edwards said.  “He is one of the best players in the Peach Belt Conference, and he has been a wonderful ambassador for our university.”

Gary graduated in May 2013 with a degree in general business and is currently working toward a Master’s degree in business administration.  As far as basketball goes, Gary has high hopes of continuing to play in the NBA or overseas.

Crayton Jones, assistant basketball coach, knows that Gary has what it takes to accomplish his goals.

 “Evrik is the hardest working, self-motivated player I have ever coached,” Jones said.  “He has a dream and a goal, and it’s clear that no circumstance will stop him from reaching them. I’m proud to say I’ve coached him.”