Recent Portland High School graduate Eli Evison will play college basketball at Eastern Connecticut State University (ECSU).
It’s the natural next step for the 6’6” multi-sport Highlander, who caught the eye of several college basketball programs over the last two years.
When Evison was a junior at PHS he joined the Connecticut Elite, an Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) basketball team based in Hartford County.
The team was coached by Fred Cardona, who described the then-blossoming basketball player as an “athletic big with good hands that showed he was able to finish through contact. [He] had a variety of finishes around the basket. [He] showed the ability to attack the basket off the dribble from the perimeter. Has consistent three-point range.”
With Cardona’s mentoring and influence, schools started to reach out to Evison about playing at the next level.
But it wasn’t until his senior year that Evison truly believed he had what it took to play at the next level.
After averaging eight points and six rebounds per game as a junior, Evison returned for his senior year in head coach David Bradbury’s system and thrived. He led the Highlanders in points per game (15.3), rebounds per game (7.4), and blocks per game (1.5) as he became the first boys’ basketball player at PHS to be selected all-state since 2003.
Evison also made first-team All-Shoreline Conference (SLC) as Portland made the quarterfinals in the Division V state tournament after defeating Coventry by 20 points at home in the first round before upsetting top-seed Terryville in the second round.
He said the home tournament win over Coventry was memorable for several reasons, including throwing down an alley-oop dunk, and called it his favorite moment because of the reaction of the school’s frenzied student section.
Following the season he worked out for the coaching staff at ECSU and was sold, saying, “It was a great fit for me.”
But before leaving PHS, Evison was not done gathering hardware. He was part of the Highlanders golf team that won their second straight state championship on June 7.
He first joined the golf team his junior year, playing on JV during the team’s title march last spring, and then made the big leap to varsity this year and played in the Highlanders top four this spring. Evison finished tied for 7th overall at the Division III championship, shooting a 78 at the Fairview Farm Golf Course in Harwinton.
Pretty impressive for someone that only started hitting the links after friend, Joe LaMalfa, talked him into it in the spring of 2021.
“I didn’t even know what a par was; I didn't know how golf worked,” recalled Evison. “When I started playing last year I was really bad, but I played the whole summer and I got a lot better.”
Along with basketball and golf, Evison also helped out with Unified Sports, calling it “a great experience.”
At Eastern, Evison will join a Warriors team that is coming off an 18-win season during head coach’s Bill Geitner’s 20th season on the bench. Over the two decades, Geitner’s has won 62% of his games, totaling 328 wins.
Due to his size Evison will most likely play center or power forward, yet his versatility will allow him to play all over the court.
He can dominate inside – evidenced by his gaudy rebound and block numbers – and he is coming off a season in which he made a team-high 37% from three-point range, knocking down 34 shots from behind the arc, which was second most of the team.
He credited Bradbury’s spread offense and his time in AAU with helping broaden his overall game.
“In college I want to try and expand my game more and think I am a good shooter right now but I want to get even better.” said Evison. “Playing with and against better competition will expand your game.”
Evison said he will miss the closeness of PHS, but added that is eager for a “bigger stage.”
“I know some of the kids that we played against and I’ll be playing with them next year. I talked to them at the all-state banquet and they are excited,” said Evison. “It sounds like we have a great group of guys and I think it will be a lot of fun.”
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Sports Editor for the Rare Reminder, Glastonbury Citizen, and Rivereast News Bulletin