Evans already a favourite with Raptor fans

Although his style of play may suggest otherwise, Reggie Evans has already become the darling of Toronto Raptor fans.

Less than 12 minutes into Toronto’s pre-season, the newly acquired forward had the crowd chanting “Reg-gie, Reg-gie”

The six-foot-eight, 245-pound product of the University of Iowa brings a level of energy and toughness Raptors coach Jay Triano would like to see his team emulate.

“We’ve seen that throughout our camp,” Triano told reporters after Tuesday night’s loss to the Philadelphia 76ers. “When he left the game in the final quarter, that’s when our intensity dropped.

“We’ve got to have guys match that and rise up. Otherwise, some of our guys are going to get embarrassed with the way they have a teammate playing.”

It was that energy and toughness that made Raptors general manager Brian Colangelo send three-point specialist Jason Kapono to Philadelphia in exchange for the eight-year pro.

Toronto may look to its big four — Chris Bosh, Andrea Bargnani, Jose Calderon, and Hedo Turkoglu — to generate points, but Raptors fans can expect to see Evans come off the bench and be tenacious on the defensive end.

The new-look Raptors are projected to do much better than last year, when they went 33-49 and wound up third last in the East.

While Turkoglu is expected make a big impact offensively, Evans has already made his presence felt through hard work and grit.

He started in place of Bosh in Tuesday night’s exhibition opener against his former squad at the John Labatt Centre in London, ON.

Two minutes into the game, he already had a pair of steals on the stats sheet.

His minutes were limited from the second quarter on, but he was still able to finish with four steals to go along with six points through 18 minutes.

“It felt really good, but at the end of the day, we have to get these fans a win,” said Evans, 29, after Tuesday’s match. “Just the first game, pre-season, a lot of new players … so it was cool.”

One night later, Evans came one point and one rebound shy of a double-double in Toronto’s 84-79 loss to the Sixers. Those are much better numbers than the 3.3 points and 4.6 boards he averaged through 79 games last season.

Though he brings a lot of passion, there are times when it has gotten him in trouble.

As a member of the Denver Nuggets, he grabbed and twisted Los Angeles Clipper Chris Kaman’s testicles while fighting for position.

So long as his energy doesn’t get the best of him, Evans will be a handful not only for opposing players, but teammates as well.

“He’s one of the toughest opponents to play against, and it’s good,” Raptors centre Rasho Nesterovic told the Globe and Mail on Sept. 29.

“Sometimes you get relaxed, a little sleepy and he wakes up everybody. Playing against him is really tough, you have to pay attention all the time.”

Evans joins a long line of Raptors favourites such as Charles Oakley, Morris Peterson, and Jerome “Junk Yard Dog” Williams.

“Practice is practice, game is game,” Evans said to the Globe and Mail. “You just go out there and hoop; you know the difference.”