August 9, 2023

Making Impact for Pistons in NBA Summer League, PU Alum Evbuomwan Utilized his Trademark Versatility

SUMMER JOB: Tosan Evbuomwan heads to the hoop last winter during his senior season with the Princeton University men’s basketball team. Evbuomwan recently competed a NBA Summer League campaign for the Detroit Pistons. Evbuomwan scored 7.0 points per game while shooting 50 percent from the field, averaged 4.0 rebounds per game, and 1.3 assists per game in helping the Pistons go 4-1. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

BY Justin Feil

Tosan Evbuomwan stuffed a statistics sheet at Princeton University, but only cared if it led the Tigers to winning.

He is taking that same approach to his professional career.

If his first foray as a part of the Detroit Pistons summer league is any indication, the recent Princeton graduate looks as though he could have the same effect at the pro level. Evbuomwan finished tied for third in the entire NBA Summer League in plus-minus at plus-17, meaning the Pistons were 17 points better with Evbuomwan on the court than when he was off it.

“When I’m playing, I don’t really tend to stuff like this,” said Evbuomwan. “I just try to play my game and try to impact winning positively. It was positive from the coaching staff and the front office. I’m looking forward to going into training camp and what follows.”

Evbuomwan helped the Pistons go 4-1 in the summer league held in Las Vegas, Nev. The versatile 6’ 8, 219-pound forward from Newcastle, England, averaged 22.8 minutes per game, scored 7.0 points per game while shooting 50 percent from the field, averaged 4.0 rebounds per game, and 1.3 assists per game. 

“Obviously my role changed from Princeton to the Pistons, but I think just for me it was important to show that I can impact winning,” said Evbuomwan, who scored 15.1 points, 6.3 rebounds and 5.0 assists per game in his final year at Princeton as he earned first-team All-Ivy League honors and helped the Tigers advance to the NCAA Sweet 16.

“That was important for me to show on both ends of the floor and the different ways I can do that. I think I showed that pretty well at summer league. That was a big focus.”

Evbuomwan returned to his native England following summer league to see his family, but anticipates returning to the United States soon to resume training to try to make the Pistons. He has been working out since leading Princeton to its historic NCAA run as the Tigers became just the fourth 15th-seed to reach the Sweet 16.

“I had some really great people working with me, some great trainers, to be as ready as possible,” said Evbuomwan. “I had a lot of team workouts prior to the draft and obviously the combine. I think there were 17 workouts with teams. That was keeping me busy of course, and any time I had back at my base I was working with my trainer and getting ready for these opportunities in these next coming months which are important.”

Evbuomwan wasn’t drafted in either of the first two rounds of the NBA Draft, but the Pistons were among a number of teams to reach out to him after the draft. Evbuomwan was most comfortable with the opportunities that the Pistons offered.

“I felt it was the best situation,” said Evbuomwan. “I was weighing some other teams that also reached out to my agent and we felt best about the situation.”

Evbuomwan was projected by some to be a second-round draft pick. He would have loved to have been drafted, but getting the chance to choose which team to sign with has its plusses as well. He liked the style and the chances to compete for a roster spot that Detroit presented, and was able to agree to his next stop on draft night as though he was a pick.

“It was great,” said Evbuomwan. “I think the most important thing for me has always been fit and not being shortsighted. Of course, everybody would like their name to be called but fit has always been more important to me. I think I made a good choice with the Pistons. Draft night was fun still. Family and close friends were there and we got to celebrate. I had it with Ben Sheppard (Belmont product picked by the Indiana Pacers) and got to celebrate him going in the first round and me agreeing to a deal with the Pistons as well, so it was a good night.”

Practicing and playing in the summer league gave Evbuomwan a first-hand idea of where he stands and how his game translates to the next level. The summer league allowed him to see how he could fit with the Pistons’ style of play and how he could help the team improve.

“I was happy with what I was able to do with the opportunities, so I’m feeling confident in myself and the level I can play at, and the same with the team,” said Evbuomwan. “That’s always been the most important thing to me. I’m feeling good about the level I’m playing at and a lot of stuff, and I can only really just hope to keep improving and keep showing that.”

Evbuomwan utilized his summer league experience to display his multi-faceted tools. He took advantage of a new set of eyes with the Pistons staff to find out what they were looking for from him, and how he might develop his game further. Evbuomwan continues to work at stretching his shooting range and proving he can defend a variety of types of forwards. He tried to take the pointers the Detroit coaches gave to work toward fulfilling the potential they see in him.

“The coaching staff is always open to talking through things with you,” said Evbuomwan. “I’m always someone that wants to keep improving so I enjoy that type of feedback. There was dialogue between my agent and the Pistons as well. That’s when you play focused in these next however long weeks it is before training camp and then obviously when you’re in training camp as well.”

Evbuomwan is looking forward to building on all that he learned at Princeton. A late arrival to the game as he initially focused on soccer, he worked hard to improve throughout his time with the Tigers. He was named the Ivy League Player of the Year as a junior and the Ivy League Madness tournament Most Outstanding Player as a senior after leading the Tigers back to the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2017.

“I had a great time at Princeton, a great coaching staff, and I was able to obviously develop there, develop a skill set,” said Evbuomwan. “More than anything and the work ethic that I carry with me now into the pro level, a lot of that became focused at Princeton with the coaches and the work we did outside of practice. I’ll always be really thankful to everybody at Princeton who helped prepare me for this moment.”

Evbuomwan’s summer league play was reinforcement that his Ivy success and NCAA tournament highlights were no fluke. He used his first pro experience to show how he can contribute at the next level.

“It was good to have the opportunity and I tried to make the most of it,” said Evbuomwan. “I had a lot of fun being a part of the Pistons. I was pleased with the way I played and the way the team played. It was a good, I’ll say, beginning to the year from a franchise perspective for the organization. Individually I was happy with what I was able to do with the opportunities given to me.”

His next opportunity will come with more on the line when NBA training camps open in the fall. Evbuomwan will be working to prove that he has the tools to help make Detroit a winning team as he tries to become the first Princeton product since Devin Cannady ’19 (Orlando Magic, 2021-22) to earn a spot on an NBA roster.

“Just keep doing what I’m doing and keep improving,” said Evbuomwan. “Impacting winning in the different ways I do on both ends. I need to guard multiple positions, be disruptive on defense, and facilitating is my No. 1 strength offensively. I need to continue to do those things and make winning plays, just continue to be me, really.”