Evan Maxwell in a few short years has gone from a lightly-recruited high school basketball player from Northeast Pennsylvania to a bonafide scholarship athlete on a major-college, blueblood team.
Now, whether the 6-foot-10 forward, who announced plans to transfer from Liberty University to Kansas last spring, can blossom into a big-school contributor and pro prospect … well, that remains to be seen.
“My role is basically up to me. I think I could either sit the bench two years or I could start for two years,” said Maxwell, who will practice this season and be eligible to compete in games as a junior in 2017-18. “It’s up to me and how hard I work. The biggest part of it is the fact they (KU coaches) believe in me and I know they believe in me and I believe in them.
“With that right there, we can make anything happen. They know I’m coming to work. I know they won’t be easy on me. They will push me to be the absolute best I can be. Since I want to be the best I can be, it’s a perfect match.”
Maxwell received offers from Monmouth and Liberty his senior year at Abington Heights High in Clarks Summit, Pa., and was also pursued by Virginia Tech, Baylor, Arizona and Cincinnati. During his sophomore season at Liberty, he averaged 10.0 points and 4.8 rebounds a game.
That output showed how far he’d come since being a seldom-used 6-foot-7 forward during his freshman year of high school.
“He was a project. He really wanted to work hard, really wanted to get better,” said John Bucci of JB Hoops, who took Maxwell under his wing after his freshman year. “Evan lifted every day for four years. He lifted when he was supposed to for four years. The best part of him is, he wants it bad. He has that lunch-pail mentality. He gets it done,” Bucci added.
At Liberty, Maxwell averaged 2.1 points and 1.1 rebounds per game during his freshman year. He turned into a starter during a sophmore campaign in which he hit 63.7 percent of his shots (128 of 201) and 63 of 99 free throws (63.6), with six blocks, 10 steals, 17 assists and 68 turnovers in 21.5 minutes per game.
His coach at Liberty was Ritchie McKay, who took over in 2015-16 after working as associate head coach at Virginia from 2009 to 2015.
“I think KU is getting a really good prospect,” McKay said . “He has a good touch. He wants contact down low. When I was at Virginia, we had post players who operated at a high level.
“Typically, he is in that equation,” McKay said of Maxwell, who scored 22 points and grabbed eight rebounds against Princeton, and went for 15 and eight against Notre Dame.
“The staff at Kansas … how good they are at developing bigs will really help Evan,” McKay said. “He’s a terrific kid, someone most people will be endeared to. He’s not cocky, not about himself. He’s a quality person who is hungry and devoted to improvement.”
Maxwell decided to ask for his release from Liberty after the final game of the season to attack his goal of playing major-college ball.
“I visited Virginia Tech and Baylor. I had visits scheduled for Arizona and Cincinnati, but ended up canceling them after the Virginia Tech visit because I liked that so much,” said Maxwell. “Kansas came into the picture, and it seemed like a very good fit. They came in a little bit late in the process. They did a good job getting to know me as quickly as possible.
“I took my visit (in May), and just being there, I knew it was the place for me. I knew it was the right people. Everything down to my parents and the way they were with the whole (coaching) staff and their wives. Every little part of it seemed the perfect fit. It was kind of a God thing. I didn’t think it would be right because I didn’t know them (before visiting). I prayed a lot. He made it clear to me. That’s what it was. I was there, felt it and knew it.
“I’m honored to say I belong to the best basketball program in the country. It’s a pretty cool opportunity.”
Maxwell had a busy campus visit.
“I got to meet all the guys,” he said. “It was finals week, so I didn’t get to spend a lot of time with them. They are great guys.
“I got to spend time with the staff. I got to know each one of them individually a little bit. I feel they can help me grow as a basketball player and help me become the man I want to become.”
In a perfect world, Maxwell would be playing with his brother, Seth, in two seasons at KU. Seth is a 7-foot senior-to-be at Abington Heights.
“We don’t know if that (playing together) is in the future,” he said. “I think that’s all up to God’s plan what he has for us. We see it working out that way, possibly. It’s something we want to make happen.”
For now, Maxwell is eager to see what he can do at KU.
“Ritchie McKay and the whole staff at Liberty … they were fantastic, and I’m very thankful,” Maxwell said. “Coming out of high school, I knew I needed to go there and grow as a man and get my life together, find out where I want to go and what direction I want to head in life.
“My time there was exactly what I needed to do. I grew up, got stronger as a person and man. Physically and mentally, I am prepared for what’s next. I am not surprised. It’s not something where I’m like, ‘Oh, man, I didn’t know I could play at Kansas.’ I knew ever since high school I could play wherever. Obviously, everyone’s path has to be different. This is a fantastic opportunity. It couldn’t have worked out better. I’m very thankful.”