Sponsored By
An organization or individual has paid for the creation of this work but did not approve or review it.



Bison may have struck recruiting gold with freshman Elle Evans

The North Dakota State guard is the highest scoring true freshman in the school's Division I era.

North Dakota State’s Elle Evans looks for a way around Minnesota’s Amaya Battle during their basketball game on Thursday, Nov. 17, 2022, at the Scheels Center in Fargo.
Alyssa Goelzer/The Forum

FARGO — With each passing Division I season ending, usually with a losing record, North Dakota State would hit the women’s basketball recruiting trail hoping to land a few players that would change the direction of the program. Or maybe at least one player.

There were hopefuls and some went on to have decent careers. But since the Bison became Division I tournament eligible in 2008, catching the likes of South Dakota or South Dakota State in the Summit League was a pipe dream.

Reality seems to be getting closer and for reason No. 1, we introduce you to Elle Evans, if you haven’t met her already. She’s a 6-foot-3 guard who can handle the ball, shoot the 3 and play defense.

“We’re building something special here,” Evans said. “I think we’ve shown it a little bit but the ceiling is so high with this group. So I’m just excited to keep showing people what we can do.”

Evans is averaging 12.5 points a game with USD coming to Scheels Center on Thursday night. Never has NDSU had a true freshman in the school’s Division I era score at this pace. Guard Katie Birkel averaged 10.0 points per game and started all 29 games in 2008-09. Guard Sarah Jacobson averaged 9.1 points and 3.5 assists in 2016-17.


Those two, however, didn’t possess the overall game and matchup issue that the taller Evans presents to opponents. She’s reached double figures in 16 of NDSU’s 20 games and has played more than 30 minutes in 12 games, second behind leading scorer Heaven Hamling.

She’s averaging 4.7 rebounds, shooting 81% from the free throw line and has blocked 24 shots. Perhaps the only puzzler is her 9.7 points per game her senior year in high school in Edwardsville, Ill.

It’s unusual for a true freshman to better her high school average.

“She was just so unselfish,” said Caty Happe, her coach at Edwardsville High School. “When we needed buckets, she would get them. She guarded the best kid on the other team. Obviously games in college are a little bit longer and the shot clock makes a difference but if she wanted to she could have averaged 20 a game.”

North Dakota State’s Elle Evans goes up for a basket against Western Illinois during their basketball game on Monday, Dec. 19, 2022, at the Sanford Health Athletic Complex inside the Scheels Center in Fargo.
Alyssa Goelzer/The Forum

Evans wasn’t needed to score at Edwardsville, which plays at the highest class in Illinois and finished 29-5 last year. She had two high school teammates starting for Division I programs this season: Macy Silvey at Southern Illinois-Edwardsville and Sydney Harris, who is the leading scorer at Central Michigan averaging 17.2 points per game.

Harris got the most accolades at Edwardsville High scoring more than 2,000 career points and was a two-time all-state selection. Evans was an all-conference selection.

“I thought it was a steal for North Dakota State to get her to be honest,” Happe said. “I know she had Power Five schools looking at her and things like that but she loves the coach, she wanted to go up north so I expected her to make an immediate impact and I’m glad she’s doing as well as she is.”

Harris and Evans duked it out in early December when the Bison traveled to Central Michigan. Evans had 17 points playing all 40 minutes. Harris had 21 points in 39 minutes, including three free throws with one second remaining giving CMU a 66-65 win.


“It was great to see her, but not the outcome we wanted,” Evans said. “It was nice to play against her at the next level.”

Evans came onto the scene at Edwardsville during her sophomore season, although because of the COVID-19 pandemic it probably wasn’t noticed. The Tigers were only able to play schools within a limited range of the city.

“When that happened and it was taken away, that’s when she knew what she wanted to do,” Happe said. “She worked so hard.”

Evans said she went through a growth spurt that year and that helped her think she could do something with basketball.

“It was like, I can really do this and be great,” she said. “Before that I was just sort of doing it for fun. Basketball was the only sport that I played so I loved the game but whenever I hit that turning point, my love just really flourished and it took off from there.”

NDSU came on the scene the spring before her senior year and the fact the Bison were one of the first ones to pay attention eventually paid off. Evans had a banner summer on the AAU circuit that had others taking notice.

She had scholarship offers from Virginia Tech and Colorado.

“But I kind of knew for myself the best fit for me would probably be a high mid-major program,” she said. “I stuck with that. I gave (other schools) some looks but I knew deep down this is where I wanted to be.”



“I think for me as a player, the person I wanted to be coming in as a freshman and my younger years of college, I wanted to get that on-the-court experience and I kind of knew I potentially could do that at the high mid-major level,” Evans said. “And it was big for me with the relationships and the community and when I came on my visit here, everything clicked and this was it.”

NDSU lost freshman guard Leah Mackenzie to injury in preseason and that put a greater emphasis on Evans contributing right away.

“She’s a high major talent I think and just fortunate she’s in the green and gold,” said Bison head coach Jory Collins. “I think what she can do offensively at this level and where her opportunities are coming, I mean, the sky’s the limit for what she can be.”

North Dakota State’s Elle Evans looks to pass while being guarded by Omaha’s Akili Felici during their basketball game on Saturday, Jan. 14, 2023, at the Sanford Health Athletic Complex inside the Scheels Center in Fargo.
Alyssa Goelzer/The Forum
Darrius Shepherd is making the most of another opportunity in the XFL.
Minot forward Darik Dissette received all 27 first-place votes for the award that goes to the top senior boys basketball player in North Dakota
Former fifth-round draft choice was free agent, remains in L.A. to possibly become QB2
NDSU offensive tackle Cody Mauch ran the 40-yard dash among other testing and drills Sunday at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis.
Despite coming off bench for NDSU, the sophomore big man provides invaluable 'substance' like offensive rebounds.
NDSU secures second seed in Summit League tournament and with it an automatic invite to the WNIT
NDSU junior will declare for NBA draft after season and after that ... who knows what is next to come?
Senior guard took a shot to the face in victory over St. Thomas, but she should play in regular-season finale at Western Illinois
With a weekend sweep of St. Thomas and Western Illinois, NDSU could guarantee a second-place Summit League finish.
Spring league takes several FCS players, including quarterback Lindsey Scott Jr. and others from Missouri Valley Football Conference
The Jamestown High School graduate adds to NDSU scoring punch as the team's No. 2 scoring option behind star Grant Nelson.
The Bison baseball team couldn't string together enough hits on Friday to catch the Hornets, despite hitting two home runs.

Jeff would like to dispel the notion he was around when Johannes Gutenberg invented the printing press, but he is on his third decade of reporting with Forum Communications. The son of a reporter and an English teacher, and the brother of a reporter, Jeff has worked at the Jamestown Sun, Bismarck Tribune and since 1990 The Forum, where he's covered North Dakota State athletics since 1995.
Jeff has covered all nine of NDSU's Division I FCS national football titles and has written three books: "Horns Up," "North Dakota Tough" and "Covid Kids." He is the radio host of "The Golf Show with Jeff Kolpack" April through August.
What To Read Next
Get Local