Defense wins championships. It’s a mantra that coaches use time and time again.
In most Division I basketball programs, the players that commit to defense play and those that don’t sit.
However, a majority of players are only focused on how many points they can score in this day and age, putting a bigger emphasis on the offensive side of the game.
That is not the case with Santa Clara signee Evan Wardlow.
Wardlow, who is a 6-foot-4 guard from El Camino Real High School in Southern California, has already earned the reputation as a lockdown defender.
“Any team that we played (in high school), I was the one that guarded their best player,” Wardlow said.
So far in his young college basketball career, Wardlow has locked up against former LMU commit and USC signee Elijah Stewart, UTEP signee Chris Sandifer, Cal-State Fullerton signee Ron Freeman, Arizona signee Jackson Parker Cartwright and four-star 2016 point guard Derrell Ramsey.
Included in that group is five-star, McDonalds All-American small forward Stanley Johnson, who is signed with Arizona. Wardlow said he is the toughest player he has ever had to guard.
“I’ve played against [Johnson] since my sophomore year and I’ve always been the one to guard him, even though he is bigger and stronger than me,” Wardlow said. “It’s was a good challenge. He is definitely one of the best players in the country for 2014.”
It doesn’t just stop there. Wardlow has also matched up against future University of San Francisco guard Chase Foster.
“He’s decent, he’s not bad at all,” Wardlow said.
In addition, Wardlow has also gotten after it with BYU commit T.J. Haws, the younger brother of the reigning WCC Player of the Year Tyler Haws.
“He’s a good guard,” Wardlow said.
Based on the long list of players Wardlow has had the privilege of locking up, it is clear that he is committed to the defensive side of the game. Wardlow believes that this mentality will earn him minutes right off the bat at Santa Clara.
“It will always help if a guy is at least decent on the offensive end and he can shut another main guy down, help defend as a team and bring more defensive effort,” Warldow said. “I think that will help me right away.”
Wardlow could be right on the money with that feeling. While the Broncos bring back a host of quality guards (Brandon Clark, Jared Brownridge, Jalen Richard, Denzel Johnson), they also lost Evan Roquemore to graduation and Julian Clarke to transfer, opening up some minutes for newcomers.
Wardlow is a candidate to snag some of those.
During the recruiting process, Wardlow was always under the radar. Once his offensive game started to develop along with his defensive skills, more schools started to show interest in the El Camino Real native.
However, it was Santa Clara that was there from the beginning.
“They started off recruiting me my sophomore year and they’ve been loyal,” Wardlow said. “They recruited me the hardest.”
Due to a turbulent summer AAU circuit, some of that interest started to dwindle. But one school remained.
“I didn’t really get a lot of exposure over the summer,” Wardlow said. “Some of the schools that were on me backed off because they didn’t me see over the summer. But Santa Clara was tough on me the whole way. They even told me I didn’t even have to play in the summer because they knew everything that they needed to know and they had seem me play so many times.”
The Broncos persistence was beneficial in the end, as Wardlow verbally committed to Santa Clara in September over Cal-State Northridge, Cal-State Fullerton, Pepperdine, San Francisco and Loyola Marymount.
“They’re were just loyal with me and were positive through the whole way,” Wardlow said. “That was a big thing. They were always looking out for me. I could tell they always wanted me.”
With so many ball-handlers and distributors in the mix, Warldow is looking forward to playing off the ball in the Broncos system.
“I’m not a selfish guy, and I know they’re not. I think it will be good bring in more talent and see what happens,” Wardlow said.
As for playing in the WCC, Wardlow doesn’t have a particular player he wants to match up with on the defensive end of the court, but he is excited to get after it.
“I’m definitely looking forward to seeing who they match me up against,” Wardlow said.
Although, Wardlow did have one name in mind when it came to locking up opposing players.
“I know Jared [Brownridge] was a big time scorer last year, but he plays for my school,” Wardlow joked.
While Wardlow is not an electric scorer, the 6-foot-4 wing can get to the rim and finish through contact. He also excels with his mid-range jumper, and is steadily working on creating his own shot and extending his range to the 3-point line and beyond.
Wardlow will arrive on campus on June 18th, where he will take two classes before the fall semester begins.