NEAR NORTH SIDE — Chris Eversley hasn't slept much lately.
After the Walter Payton College Prep graduate led Cal Poly to a stunning Big West tournament championship Saturday night, it's been a whirlwind of activity.
First came Sunday's NCAA tournament selection show, where the Mustangs learned they'd be facing Texas Southern on Wednesday in Dayton, Ohio, in a first-round battle of 16-seeds. Eversley and Poly left California early Monday morning for Ohio, will practice Tuesday, and, if they win Wednesday, will fly to St. Louis for Friday's second-round matchup with top-seeded Wichita State.
"It's been hectic, but it's good to enjoy the moment," said Eversley, who was carried off the court by teammates and fans after Saturday's 61-59 victory over Cal State Northridge.
Eversley, a 6-foot-7 senior forward, scored 18 points in the championship game en route to being named the tournament's MVP. He had never won a title in high school or college until the weekend.
"It was worth the wait," said Eversley, whose family lived in Roseland during his time at Payton College Prep. "This is what you work for as a kid. You dream to be on the big stage, and you're finally here."
Even Eversley, who averages a team-high 13.6 points per game, was a bit surprised Poly picked up the tournament title. The Mustangs (13-19) were seeded seventh but defeated second-seeded UC Santa Barbara 69-38 in the quarterfinals before topping top-seeded UC Irvine 61-58 in the semifinals.
Poly, which qualified for its first-ever Division I NCAA tournament, became the lowest seeded champion in the 39-year history of the Big West tournament. Mustangs head coach Joe Callero said Eversley's passion for the game was a big reason why.
“Chris is one of the most energetic and positive student-athletes I’ve had the pleasure of coaching in 27 years," Callero said. "His enthusiasm for basketball and life has made him a complete joy to coach the last four years.”
Eversley seemed destined for basketball greatness since birth. His father, Michael Eversley, was a standout guard at Chicago State and played for the Bulls during the 1979 season. His mother, Nina Leonard, guided Long Beach State to the NCAA tournament West Regional finals in 1983 and 1984.
Eversley averaged 19.2 points and 9.1 rebounds per game at Payton. His varsity coach for two seasons, Rick Pryor, said Eversley's top attributes were his "basketball IQ and his unselfishness."
"He was a team player," said Pryor, who also was the head coach at Chicago State and is Eversley's second cousin. "He played the game how it was supposed to be played."
In 2009, he became the school's first graduate to sign a national Letter of Intent with a Division I men's basketball program when he committed to Rice. He spent a season in Houston before transferring to Cal Poly.
Eversley is graduating and June and hopes for a career in sports marketing at a company like Nike or Adidas. He also wants to play professional basketball, either in the NBA or overseas.
But he stressed his focus now is completely on March Madness.
"I'm in the dark right now for my professional career, but it's for a good reason," Eversley said.