Growing up in Goleta since birth, Miles Evans always envisioned himself one day attending UCSB and starring as a major athlete on campus. The junior outside hitter just never imagined that his sport would be volleyball. The hometown hero’s path to UCSB, while somewhat expected, certainly took some interesting turns along the way.Evans was a natural-born athlete, participating in all sports growing up with a special eye toward playing collegiately at UCSB. Volleyball, however, had not even crossed his mind when it came to athletics. It was not until his sophomore year at Dos Pueblos High School that he tried his hand at the sport.
“I was bad at volleyball my first two years playing, and then something clicked where I really enjoyed playing and wanted to get better,” Evans said. “I practiced every day just for fun.”
Encouraged by his former junior high physical education coach Chris Hughes, also the volleyball coach at Dos Pueblos High, Evans conceited to give it a shot, a decision that proved beneficial for both him and the community of Santa Barbara.
“It took Miles about a half year to get hooked, and that’s all he wanted to do: play volleyball,” Hughes said. “As a coach, it makes me really proud. Miles never played volleyball until his sophomore year and look at him now.”
Eventually, Evans improved enough to play club ball his senior year in 2007, even garnering attention from college programs interested in recruiting him to play Division I volleyball.
“I got recruited by Hawaii, Northridge and UCSB out of high school,” Evans said. “But I didn’t take my SATs because I didn’t know I was that good at volleyball, or I didn’t know I was going to be.”
Unable to register at any of the colleges that recruited him, Evans enrolled at SBCC to begin his pursuit of a newfound dream of playing collegiate volleyball at UCSB. After redshirting one year in 2008, Evans finally tried to show he could handle his own at the junior college level.
Things did not go according to plan. After a mere two games, Evans was kicked off the team at SBCC by the coach – not for lack of talent, but for personal reasons.“I was actually one of the better players on the team, and I got cut because I had a huge ego,” Evans said. “I was like the virus on the team because I was thinking I was so good, so the coach cut me.” With one year of eligibility wasted, Evans came back and went on to play the next season under the same coach at SBCC, where he led the state in kills. While continually receiving interest from local universities, he still did not have the grades to make it into a four-year university.
That’s when Evans redshirted at UCSB to improve his grades and qualify academically. In his spare time, he was able to practice with the team and eventually gained admission before the 2011-2012 school year. “He is hungry for this sport,” UCSB Head Coach Rick McLaughlin said. “Miles is hungry, he hasn’t experienced a lot of this stuff and he’s done a great job for us this year. I even expect him next year to be one of the best guys in the league.” Evans led the Gauchos this year with a team-high 325 kills and ranked No. 11 in league in kills per set with nearly 3.5 per and 14th in digs. Five years after graduating high school, the rest of Santa Barbara has finally been able to see the type of player Evans can be – a player that several coaches envisioned so long ago.
“He has a ton of potential and he has the ability to play this game beyond college, whether it’s professional or with our national team,” McLaughlin said.
A leader on the floor with his play, Evans always draws a crowd in home matches with his own cheering section usually accompanying him and waiting to greet him after the games.
“It’s amazing; it’s a great experience because the community really enjoys me playing for UCSB,” Evans said. “There are a lot of friends that get to watch the matches. I love being a part of the community and representing Santa Barbara, it’s really awesome to play for UCSB, it’s always been a dream of mine.”
Although finally a student at UCSB, Evans by no means has a normal college life, still living at home in Goleta with his family to save money and focus more on schoolwork. Coming from a family in which he is the youngest of five, including two half-sisters, a half-brother and a stepsister, Evans has managed to balance college life with the everyday distractions that come with living at home.
“I think it has been benefiting me in many ways because I don’t have to deal with the whole I.V. scene and the whole party scene,” Evans said. “I would love to move out here next year, but at the same time, it’s more realistic to stay at home and stay more focused on my studies rather than having fun.”
Focused on pursuing a career in volleyball, Evans, a sociology major, hopes to one day go back to school for a master’s degree when his days of volleyball are over. Dreams of a professional career seem to be a possibility, with a hint at the Olympics as the ultimate goal for Evans.
“This is my dream,” Evans said. “I’ve always wanted to be where I’m at right now. Now I just need to set higher and higher goals, and see where volleyball can take me.”
Volleyball, once an afterthought to Miles Evans, has become a way of life, providing him with the opportunity to chase his dreams and receive a higher education.
“I honestly don’t know what I would have done if I didn’t get into volleyball,” Evans said. “I could say that without volleyball, I couldn’t get through college, to tell you the truth.”
Both UCSB and Evans are surely grateful for the switch to volleyball and all of the opportunities that may come next season in what looks to be a promising senior year for Miles Evans and the rest of Gaucho squad.