Playing in his first game since being injured last January, Keenan Evans returned to star form to lead a Zalgiris comeback.
Keenan Evans inspired Zalgiris comeback on his return from injury
Keenan Evans pulled off an extraordinary performance to inspire Zalgiris Kaunas to a 79-82 victory over Virtus Segafredo Bologna on the road at Paladozza on Thursday night. Evans returned to Turkish Airlines EuroLeague in style nine months after picking up a season-ending injury back in January. The Zalgiris guard worked hard to ready his comeback and hit the ground running with a fourth-quarter fireworks display in Italy to open the 2023-24 campaign.
Evans scored 7 of his team's 15 points in the first quarter and 11 of his 25 points in the last one to clinch the road victory. He sank some crucial baskets, including a huge three-pointer with 43 seconds left on the clock to make it 74-80 for the visitors. After his team's triumph in Italy, Zalgiris head coach Kazys Maksvytis hailed Evans's work ethic and expressed his joy for his player's performance at Virtus.
"I am very happy for Keenan," Kazys Maksvytis told the post-game press conference. "He had a sad end of season last year. From the first day [after he got injured] he was a professional. He was trying to come back. I think he's still not at 100%, but he still scored 25 points. He deserved to come back like this and I'm very happy for him."
Evans showed a glimpse of what he can achieve in the competition with some sublime performances last year, when he averaged 15.9 points before suffering a serious Achilles injury in the first minute of the duel between Zalgiris and Fenerbahce Beko Istanbul in Round 17. Evans could not help Zalgiris for the remainder of the campaign, but he made a strong comeback with a statement performance at Virtus.
Taking into account that Maksvytis's remarks about Evans still needing time in order to be at his best make sense, Turkish Airlines EuroLeague fans may expect a breakthrough season by the Zalgiris guard after suffering a bout of bad luck in 2022-23.