NEW YORK - As he went around the table, embracing his mother and brothers, Tyreke Evans showed it all in his eyes: The jubilation. The relief. The fulfillment.
For the 6-foot-5 guard out of Memphis, this moment was 12 years in the making. It all paid off last night at Madison Square Garden.
Evans will play for the Sacramento Kings after being chosen with the fourth pick in the NBA draft.
"This is crazy," said Evans, who is expected to earn a rookie salary of $3,610,080. "This is a dream I had since I was 7 years old. Watching plenty of NBA games, I was a fan of Penny Hardaway. . . . Now I see myself out there playing [in the NBA]. This is big."
The Chester native became the highest draft pick from Southeastern Pennsylvania since the Washington Bullets took Simon Gratz's Rasheed Wallace at No. 4 in 1995.
The 19-year-old Evans began to prepare for the defining moment of his life with an 8 a.m. NBA breakfast meeting. Afterward, he interviewed with league officials and talked to his agent, Arn Tellem. Then Evans and the other prospects had lunch with league commissioner David Stern.
By 4 p.m., he had finished interviews with ESPN and NBA TV. And representatives from ESPN's E:60 and Dime magazine were waiting for him in his room.
Surrounded by family and friends, Evans displayed a bright smile that lit up the hotel lobby. He was relaxed 31/2 hours before he would learn his fate.
"It ain't nothing to me," Evans said then about the pre-draft hype. "I'm just T.E. right now. Tyreke. That's how I feel about it."
Evans' older brother and legal guardian, Reggie Evans, appeared to be overwhelmed, however.
"You think you are getting ready for the inauguration or something," said the elder Evans, who was working on four hours of sleep. "It's crazy, man.
"I didn't know it was like this behind the scenes, all wild and crazy."
But to the Evans family, all the wackiness was worth it. This was the moment the family had envisioned for some time.
"I told everyone at biddy league that he was going to be a pro," Reggie Evans said. "They laughed at me at first."
Undaunted, the Evans family put together its blueprint for grooming a pro when Tyreke was 7.
"The blueprint to being a pro was putting together all aspects of basketball - biddy league, biddy league travel, camps and playing on the AAU circuit," Reggie Evans said.
He said that sending Tyreke to the now-defunct American Christian Academy, where he was the focal point, was not part of the blueprint. But the non-traditional school did give Evans an opportunity to play varsity ball once he enrolled in the seventh grade.
When he wasn't playing for American Christian, Evans, as a 12-year-old, competed with various 17-and-under AAU teams.
In the seasons that followed, Evans had it all: lofty national rankings, a personal trainer, a chiropractor and relationships with NBA players LeBron James and Jason Kidd.
Reggie Evans and personal trainer Lamont Peterson also marketed him aggressively.
"That could only be done because the kid was legit," Peterson said. "We figured if we could get him on the cover of Dime or Slam magazines, the kid would be considered legit."
By the time he graduated from American Christian, Evans had been on the cover of Dime twice and Slam once. The MVP of the 2008 McDonald's All–American Game was also featured in Sports Illustrated and Rise magazine.
Evans' journey to the draft was briefly disrupted by a shooting incident in his hometown. He was the driver of a vehicle from which his cousin, Jamar Evans, shot and killed a man in November 2007.
After a police investigation, Tyreke Evans was not charged. In January, Jamar Evans, 17, pleaded guilty to third-degree murder and firearm charges. He was sentenced to at least nine years in prison on Tuesday.
It is an incident that Tyreke Evans, the 2008 Southeastern Pennsylvania player of the year, tries not to think about.
"You know, wrong place at the wrong time," he said. "It was just one of those moments [in which] you've just got to watch where you are going and who you are around.
"The position that I am in now, I just have to be careful."
Evans signed to play college ball with Memphis. It was expected that he would enter the draft after only one season with the Tigers.
And that brought him to last night.
After Stern announced his name, Evans received rock-star treatment. The Garden crowd went wild as he walked to the podium to meet Stern. After his interview with ESPN, the crowd chanted, "Tyreke Evans! Tyreke Evans!"
Young children, yelling, "Mr. Evans," chased after him, seeking autographs.
"It's just crazy," Evans said. "I've been getting it a lot, but now they call me mister. I ain't ever heard nobody call me mister."