Thursday, December 16, 2010

Catching up with JMU's Kenny Brooks

James Madison coach Kenny Brooks loves to gush about Dawn Evans both on the court and off. Brooks said he is proud that the all-everything senior point guard has become an ambassador for NephCure, a nonprofit foundation that funds research into finding effective treatment and providing support for patients with kidney disease.

James Madison will host NephCure Night on Monday when the Dukes host Virginia at the Convocation Center at 7 p.m. "Sign on for Dawn" (, an online fundraising campaign, has raised more than $3,000. Evans was diagnosed with kidney problems last year.

"Just about all their spokesmen had been male, and to have a female be able to do it puts it in a different light and brings a different awareness to the disease," Brooks said. Brooks said kids battling the disease have approached Evans after games. "She has been a real inspiration to them," he said.

Slowed by a virus earlier this month that left her unable to stomach fluids and therefore made her kidneys work even harder, Evans is operating at about 70 percent, Brooks said. He called a kidney transplant "imminent. It's just a matter of when. It could be a matter of five or 10 years away. She's changed her diet and right now is holding steady."

Something else that prompts Brooks to gush: the Dukes 2011-12 incoming class of five, ranked 42nd by ESPN. In addition to graduating Evans, JMU will lose 6-4 center Lauren Jimenez, 6-3 forward Jalissa Taylor and 5-10 forward Courtney Hamner.

"We needed some size. Bigs are a premium; you just can't get enough of them," he said. "This class is huge for us and I expect them to come in and make an immediate impact."

Who are these bigs? They're Achiri Ade, a 6-1 power forward from Baltimore, ranked 27th at her position by ESPN; 6-2 guard Jazmon Gwathmey from Bealeton, Va.; 6-0 power forward Toia Giggetts of Norfolk from Group AAA state champion Lake Taylor; 6-2 forward/center Briana Jones of Powder Springs, Ga., ranked 39th at her position by ESPN; and 6-3 forward/center Crystal Ross of Smyrna, Del., where she was all-state honorable mention.

Brooks called Ade "one of the most athletic kids we've ever recruited." He compared Giggetts to former JMU great Kisha Stokes and praised Jones' game smarts and intangibles that aren't always obvious during the recruiting process. Gwathmey has great size for a guard, he said, and signing Ross was a coup for the program. The Smyrna High School senior who averaged 15.2 ppg, 8.6 rpg and 3.5 bpg last season was also looking at Rutgers and Cincinnati.

Expect to see them get plenty of playing time early, said Brooks, noting that if it seems like his kids stay around forever, it's because a staple of his program is giving freshmen quality minutes. Even so, it's hard to believe we have only a few more months of enjoying Evans in the college game.


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