Even 11 years into the NBA, Brooklyn Nets power forward Reggie Evans still feels it's "overwhelming" being in the unique position he's in at 32 years old.
While he dreamed of playing basketball on the biggest stage as a kid, he never thought growing up in a small football city -- Pensacola, Fla. -- and then going undrafted out of Iowa in 2002 would turn into a respectable career. While he's bounced around the league, playing for six different teams -- the Seattle SuperSonics, Denver Nuggets, Philadelphia 76ers, Toronto Raptors, Los Angeles Clippers and the Nets -- he's helped four of them get to the postseason.
And that doesn't include Brooklyn, which is well on its way to the playoffs this season. In fact, when coach P.J. Carlesimo took over the team on Dec. 27, he inserted Evans into the starting lineup. The Nets went on a subsequent 10-2 run, vaulting up to second place in the Atlantic Division.
As far as role players go, Evans sets the standard for the "X-factor big man" in the rotation. Not only does he rebound consistently (more than nine per game in only 23 minutes), but he also defends aggressively and brings constant energy to the court -- things he learned from coach Nate McMillan during his 2002-03 rookie campaign in Seattle.
Speaking with ESPN Playbook recently, Evans talked about his hoops upbringing in the Emerald City, what it's like to get traded, his favorite and worst playing experiences, how he views his much legacy and more.
How did you progress as a great rebounder?
Coming into the league, I didn't really have a mindset other than just showing that I belonged in this league, because I didn't get drafted. So I had to come out here and just prove myself. From a rebounding standpoint, I was already rebounding from high school from junior college to Division I.
It's just that when I came into the league, playing for Coach Nate in Seattle, he just told me that he had certain things that he needed me to do for our team to be successful, and rebounding was one of them. Also, bringing energy to the game, making sure that everybody is ready to go. He was like, "There are going to be some games where guys are not going to be as motivated, and I need for you to get those guys motivated."
I never understood that, but once he broke that down to me -- he looked me eye-to-eye -- I just started doing it. Now, I've pretty much carved my own lane by some of the things he told me to do. That's what I do now.
When you talk about rebounding, do you think it's important for a player like you to build a niche in the league?
Yes, no question about it. Nate looked me in my eye and he was just real, and I just felt his presence. I was like, "That's what you want me to do?" I'm like, "All right, that's less work I have to do." That's the way I looked at it. I did it, and he played me. I didn't get drafted, and I averaged [20.4] minutes a game as a rookie and I started  games.
I think that a lot of players get so caught up into scoring the basketball because of their past history. [Evans averaged 15.3 points per game over two seasons at Iowa.] A lot of times, players do not know how to move on from their past. That's why some guys don't last as long in the league and stuff.
What's one big rebounding game that stands out for you in your career?
The one rebounding game that probably sticks out to me is in my rookie year. Against Cleveland [on Dec. 16, 2002], John Lucas was their coach and I had 17 rebounds. I think just the amount of rebounding I had in the minutes coach Nate gave me, and just to see my teammates' reactions, how they were just going crazy, so proud of me. In my rookie year when I did that, I was extremely happy.
You mentioned that you weren't drafted. So when did you feel that coming-of-age moment?
In Seattle my rookie year, just knowing that I would be there for the opening game when I played against Phoenix [on Oct. 30, 2002]. It was my first game against the Phoenix Suns. I was at the jump ball and I was like, "Wow, I did it." That was my moment where I was like, "Wow, I'm here." I was ready to roll then.
When you were a rookie, did the veterans put you through any rituals?
Nah, they treated me good. I got real, real lucky. They treated me real good. I swear to God, I was a very lucky individual.
Is it ever surreal for you looking back on your career, knowing that you've played for six teams in 11 years?
To be honest with you, what's so surreal is that this is something I always wanted to do, and I've been able to take care of my family. That's worth kind of like ... "Wow." But from the basketball standpoint, that's just something I loved to do. I'm passionate about this. I was too passionate about it. I put a lot of time and dedication in. Just being able to take care of my family and just knowing that, it's overwhelming for me now. I look at my kids and I'm just like, "Wow, I'm just blessed to be in the position that I'm in right now."
Some fans may not realize what the process is like when a player gets traded. You've been through it four times. Was it ever challenging mentally for you to pack up and head out again?
Some players get too emotional behind it. I don't get really too emotional about it because I know it's a business more than anything. But it's easy when you've got help. I've had my wife, [Joi Evans], to help me out, and different organizations are more than welcome to help you out also. So it kind of makes the transition a lot easier and stuff like that. My biggest thing is to make sure I just get the playing time. Sometimes, it can get a little overwhelming, but, hey, when you look at the overall picture, this is what it's all about.
Which coach did you really enjoy playing for?
Coach Nate and [George] Karl [in Denver]. Those are my people. Coach Nate and Coach Karl, I loved them to death. And Mo Cheeks [in Philadelphia]. Mo Cheeks, that was my man. I loved those three coaches to death. I had a lot of fun with those three coaches.
How about a favorite teammate who's still a good friend today?
Rashard Lewis in Seattle [from 2002-06]. Besides my homeboys back at the crib, that's my dog right there. He's very humble.
Speaking of Seattle, they're getting a team again soon.
I know, right? I'm looking forward to that, but it's kind of bittersweet though because I kind of feel sorry for the people in Sacramento. That's a big basketball town.
Was there an experience you had with an NBA team that was more challenging than the others?
Nah, I had a lot of fun, I had a lot of great teammates. The only tough time I had was when I was in Toronto, and the only reason it was so tough was because I was hurt [a foot injury]. I was not able to bring out the full me. I was real hurt about that, so that was something that I just look back at a lot like, "Man, I wish I didn't get hurt. We could've made the playoffs."
Is it cool for you now being one of the top veterans on the Nets and helping the younger guys? What kind of advice do you give them?
No question about it, because I paved that lane. I put in time to be in the position that I'm in now. I just basically give them advice on just, "Hey, sometimes just be patient when things aren't going your way, but also work hard. Not only that, save your money and don't be scared to say, 'No.'" It just all depends on who the player is and what they're going through, but just kind of be there for them. Not only that, let them know, "Hey, man, good shot. You're doing good, keep up the good work." So it's kind of on-the-court stuff and off-the-court stuff, just real-life stuff -- try to make sure they're real developed.
Any goals looking ahead this season? What do you still want to accomplish?
Win a championship. That's it. That's the only thing I need. That's the only goal I want to achieve. There aren't really too many goals I can really achieve from an individual standpoint, just knowing that I'm a role player. Basically, I want to try to achieve the team, and that's to win a championship.
By the way, where does your trademark beard come from? You'll keep it going for the rest of the year?
My beard's not going nowhere. I've had that probably since I was in Philly, Toronto. I started growing it a little bit when I got to Denver and stuff, but that ain't going nowhere. That's my identity now. They're making T-shirts of my face with the beard on there. Honestly, I didn't even want to do it. I just noticed that I started getting sideburns and they used to be real long, and then all of a sudden, it got connected.
I had a barber one time that kind of lined me up without telling me and it was in the shape of a beard, and I was like, "OK, that ain't bad." Ever since then, I've just been rolling with it.
When your career wraps up, how do you want to be remembered?
I only want to be remembered as a guy who just went hard, who respected the game, who respected his peers who was before his time and never took days off practice and games. And a guy who worked hard, and a guy who came in the league and carved his own lane to where a lot of coaches tell their players like, "Hey, we want you to play like Reggie Evans."
I see that pattern starting to come out. When you watch the draft, they're like, "He's the next Reggie Evans." That's beautiful, knowing that a kid from Pensacola, from a football state, from a football town, carved his own lane in the league.