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Talking with Tyreke Evans, a visionary both on and off the court

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Tyreke discusses the pride he feels in being associated with VSP Vision Care, the ability to help his hometown, as well as the upcoming season, his preparation for it and he even answers some very personal questions!

Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

Earlier today, I got the chance to interview Tyreke Evans of the New Orleans Pelicans. Although he answered a wide array of questions, it's obvious his work with VSP Vision Care truly sits in a special place close to his heart.

Back in 2011, his hometown of Chester, Pennsylvania was selected by the Obama Administration to be one of six cities in which the Strong Cities, Strong Communities initiative was launched to strengthen the partnership between local governments, schools and businesses in an effort to strengthen communities in need and revitalize economies.

However, the partnership between Evans and VSP vision care started well before this period, back in 2009. Going on six years now, both parties have committed a good deal of resources to the campaign. According to the company, there exist a vast number of kids who have undiagnosed vision problems, yes, even within the United States.

One in four children has an undiagnosed vision problem that can affect learning. Healthy vision is essential to a child’s ability to learn and achieve their full potential. Since vision problems can begin at an early age, children should receive regular comprehensive eye exams at 6 months old, 2 years old, before kindergarten and every year following.

Below is footage from last year's trip to Chester.

What has caused you to make eye vision care such a priority? Was it something personal, say a family member or a friend in need?

A lot of my family members didn't really know they needed glasses. When I partnered with VSP, they wanted me to check them. Then a lot of people got a chance to get their eye exams. I thought it was big for the city, you know, for us not really having a lot of things there.

I have read this year marks 6 straight years that you have partnered with VSP vision care. That’s awesome. How did your relationship with them begin?

When I met Melissa (a spokesperson for VSP) in Sacramento, we became partners and starting working together. The last six years we've brought the clinic to Chester to give out free glasses and hold a free basketball camp for kids. Hopefully, we will continue working together.

I know this whole program has to be rewarding but is there any specific part that brings you the most satisfaction? Is it helping underprivileged kids, giving back to your hometown or is it all just good?

When I come back to the clinic and drive in the bus around the city, I see a lot of old friends I grew up with. A lot of kids come and it's always good times when you see them. For my city, I don't get a chance to promote it a lot during the season, so when I do, it's fun and exciting.

Is there a particular story that you are reminded of time and again? Say a child or his parents who really touched your heart and made you feel especially happy for helping offer free eye care in Chester?  Can you go into some detail why?

Not really. Just a lot of parents come up and say thanks. A thank you for giving them an opportunity to get their eyes checked with the free exam. It means a lot to get a chance to do it for their kids, especially with school starting this time of year.

How is the program going so far this year? For instance, after helping about 150 kids last year, how many do you expect this year?

Probably the same. I haven't been there yet; I got in yesterday. I'm heading down to the clinic (later), the Boys and Girls Club, to speak with the kids. It's been awhile, so I'm definitely excited. The kids are getting older and older, you know, and every year there's new kids.

Are there any future plans for this partnership with VSP? Maybe try to help every kid in need in Chester, or perhaps see the program expand to other cities?

Lately, I've talked with VSP about how it's been working good so far from the things we've been doing together. Hopefully, we keep doing well with this coming back to Chester, but probably we'll switch it up and do something else. For right now, we're focused on this part, coming to Chester.

Speaking of eyesight, what vision do you have? Is it 20/20 or does the answer depend upon you well you shoot the ball on a certain night?

{Tyreke laughs.} I get an eye exam every year when I come here. I think it's probably 20/20 and I'll get one later today when I go to the clinic. Last year I had good eyesight, I hope to get the same result as last year. {Tyreke chuckles.}

A lot has been said of your offseason workouts, namely getting your body in incredible shape to handle the up-tempo style Alvin Gentry is famous for. Would you say either this is the hardest you’ve worked during the summer or that you feel you’re the best shape of your life?

Umm, I think that I just wanted to prepare knowing for what I'm coming into this season: a new coach and a new style of play that is uptempo. Talking with coach, I'm getting a heads up on what we're going to be doing. I thought that was important. Gave me some time to work hard and get in the right shape for the season.

With the 2016 season less than a few months away, how excited are you and your teammates for everything to begin?

We're excited. I talked to coach last night. Most of the guys are back right now for workouts. Just be healthy, hopefully stay that way and we will have a great season. I like our chances.

Have you added anything new to your game for this year? Say will we see more three-pointers, post-ups or some other type of shot that you’ve been working on?

Uhh, more post. When I was working out and on my floater, coach came over and said I needed to spend 20 minutes on post-ups and moves cause I'm going to the block this year. I've definitely been working on that. I did a lot of that in Sacramento, but he said I'm going back to it this year. Definitely have to work out all of that and always wanted to be moved into the post this year.

After last year’s playoff run, can you share some goals that either both you or the team have for 2016?

Not really, but I'm going to talk to the team when I get back. Me and AD (Anthony Davis), one of the leaders of the team, we just don't want to accept going into this year. After going into last year and seeing the playoffs for the our first time, learning what it was like, that was cool, but this year we have to treat every game like it's a playoff game in the regular season.

Now for some quick random fire questions.

a. Do you have any pets?

No pets.

b. What is your favorite non-diet food, ie. When you splurge?

When I come home, I try and stay with my mom. She cooks a lot of soul food: macaroni, fried chicken, yams.

c. And do you have one when you’re watching what you eat?

My favorite is fish. I try to eat a lot of salmon...tilapia. Before the game, that's one of my pre-game meals. I always try to be healthy. My brothers always keep me away from the bad foods.

d. What is your favorite restaurant in New Orleans?

I would probably say either Drago's or Oceania Grill.

e. Do you have a favorite movie? Television show?

Favorite tv show is probably say Martin and movie probably...uhh...Love and Basketball. {Tyreke chuckles.}

f. Everyone loved this quote from last year: "We ain't stoppin' at no stores. Straight gas." Have you got a new one for this upcoming season yet?

Not yet, those don't work yet. I was talking to AD about how we approach each other on the court. I might stick with the same one, I kind of like that one.

About an hour after the interview finished, my contact informed me that Tyreke Evans has 20/15 vision, a grade above average vision. We certainly hope this excellent vision is put to good use during the upcoming season; however, there is no doubt the greatest outcome of Tyreke's goodwill is all the lives he's touched and continues to change for the better in Chester, PA.

**None of this would have been possible were it not for the following people so The Bird Writes would like to thank Tyreke Evans, Danielle DeVoren, Maryam Brown and VSP. Personally, I found this article a very rewarding endeavor. This past Sunday, my family had lost the center of our universe, our long-time Wheaten Terrier pet, to cancer. Needless to say, writing about Tyreke's heart-warming cause helped me to momentarily put aside any remaining grief. I can't thank the group of people listed above enough for this wonderful opportunity.