There’s a clever tagline in a TV commercial promoting NCAA athletics that says something along the lines of “there are over 400,000 NCAA student athletes and most will go pro in something other than sports.”
Cal Poly senior and Atascadero High School graduate Mary Kate Evans is one of those student athletes.
Evans is finally getting a chance to make an impact on the court for the Mustangs after a college career previously plagued by injuries since her days dominating Central Coast competition at Atascadero High.
The 6-foot-2 guard/forward has moved into a starting role and is a key contributor for a Mustangs team that currently sits in second place in the Big West Conference standings.
But Cal Poly head coach Faith Mimnaugh said Evans is destined for greater things outside the basketball court.
“None of us would be surprised if she won the Noble Prize,” Mimnaugh said following a 63-56 win over Cal State Fullerton on Saturday in Cal Poly’s final home game of the season. “She’s a difference-maker and a world-changer, and we have been blessed to have her.”
A biomedical engineering major, Evans was named second-team all-district on the 2017-18 COSIDA Academic All-America Team, the premier awards program honoring combined academic and athletic accomplishments. The district includes 46 Division I programs from California, Arizona, Washington, Oregon, Nevada, Utah and Hawai'i.
It was just another award in a long list of academic accomplishments for Evans. She has been named to the Dean’s List at Cal Poly 10 times, made the Big West All-Academic Team three times and was the Cal Poly Female Scholar Athlete of the Year in 2016-2017. Evans carries a 3.83 GPA in the research-based field while averaging nearly five points per game and shooting 40 percent from 3-point range.
“The thing that most impressed me about her is her work ethic,” Mimnaugh said. “She tries to be the best she can be at every single thing she touches.”
And her career aspirations are intertwined with her personal experiences.
“In the long run, my dream would be to do research on therapies using tissue engineering, treating injuries in athletes,” Evans said. “I have seen teammates with career-ending injuries, and there just aren’t enough solutions out there.”
Evans knows how devastating injuries can be.
She suffered a torn meniscus in her knee and stress fracture in her foot that cut her senior season short while at Atascadero High and limited her development when she arrived at Cal Poly, her dream school. Through it all, Evans had plenty of support from nearby family and friends. Nearly all of them, including her parents who have never missed a home game, were on hand Saturday as she said goodbye to Mott Athletics Center.
“It was just so special looking up there and seeing everybody cheering me on. I am really, really grateful,” Evans said.
After school Evans, who turns 23 on Saturday, plans to take a year off to do research and work on Ph.D. applications for biomedical engineering, a step that will occupy the next five years of her life.
Until then Evans and Cal Poly (16-11, 10-5 Big West) will look to secure the second seed in the Big West Tournament with a win against Hawai’i on Saturday (9 p.m.). If Cal Poly can pull it off with some help, it would automatically put the Mustangs into the semifinals at the Honda Center in Anaheim on March 9 and all but secure a bid to at least the Women’s NIT Tournament.
“I couldn’t imagine a better way to go out,” Evans said of potentially winning a Big West tournament title. “We have to finish out strong.”