Mar. 27—On nights when Terre Haute South's football team played home games, one of the Braves' basketball players — Brian Evans — would convince the athletic director to lower a basket in the gym.
Evans wanted to practice. The AD also happened to be Evans' basketball coach, Pat Rady.
"The game would be over, and Brian would still be in there shooting. I told him I was done for the day and I needed to go home, and he always wanted to shoot for five more minutes," Rady recalled.
Rady told that story to the Tribune-Star in 2016, when Terre Haute South officially retired Evans' No. 50 jersey. That extra practice paid off. Evans led South to the Indiana high school Final Four in 1991, played four seasons under Coach Bob Knight at Indiana University, won the Big Ten Conference Most Valuable Player Award as an IU senior in 1996, played four professional seasons in the NBA and six more in Italy, and got inducted into the Terre Haute South Hall of Distinction in 2010 and the IU Athletics Hall of Fame in 2018.
"It's hard work and dedication that allowed him to accomplish everything he's done," Rady said in 2016. "None of that surprises me."
Thirty years after the 6-foot-8, smooth-shooting Evans took South to Final Four, his determination remains a topic of conversation.
He and fellow former IU basketball great Steve Green have collaborated to build Arora Sleep, a northside Indianapolis company that specializes in oral devices to relieve snoring and treat sleep apnea symptoms. Evans suited up as No. 34 for the Hoosiers from 1992 to '96 (after redshirting his first year), and Green — Knight's first recruit at IU — wore the same number from 1972 to '75. Both he and Evans were forwards. Both led the Hoosiers in scoring for a season. Green is 67 years old. Evans is 47. Green's acumen as a dentist resulted in Arora's unique sleep device treatments. Evans' business talents put him in the role as the firm's CEO and president.
As an alum, Green enjoyed watching Evans' tireless efforts as an IU player back in the '90s. The work ethic that propelled Evans on the court has been evident to Green as they've spent nearly five years planning and then opening Arora Sleep.
"One thing I know about Brian is that I can trust him. He's not going to be outworked, he's incredibly smart and he's a winner, period," Green said this month.
The goal that brought the two together is the relief of snoring and treatment of sleep apnea to improve the lives of people in Indiana and, eventually beyond. Their ties to Knight's most fabled era at IU, when the Hoosier teams won three NCAA championships and 11 Big Ten titles, draws interest to the present pursuit by Green and Evans.
"It certainly hasn't hurt us," Evans said in a phone interview this month.
"The hoops connection is something that's near and dear to our hearts," Evans said. "There's a lot of trust and teamwork. I know where he came from, and he knows where I came from. So, we've got something that's really special to both of us, that we have in common with one another, and, all the things that we learned under Coach Knight to prepare.
"Because the preparation piece, the trying to outwork your opponent, there's just a lot of lessons that he knows that I learned and I know that he learned from Coach," Evans said of Knight, who's now 80 and has been retired from coaching since 2008.
Pandemic slowed start
Their preparation went into overtime, because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Evans and Green intended to open Arora last April. But in March 2020, the coronavirus influx forced shutdowns of existing businesses, schools, colleges and public indoor spaces. Arora's debut had to wait, too.
"When we were ready to go and we were excited to open the doors and make this thing a reality, that didn't get to happen," Evans said. "We had to sit back and wait eight months, nine months. That was a trying time. And that tested not just us but everybody. It tested our patience and our ability to stick with it."
Opening day finally came in September.
The centerpiece of the business is the oral sleep device. Someone who snores or has sleep apnea — in which breathing stops and starts — can make an appointment, visit the facility, get custom-fitted for a device, have it ready in 35 minutes, and take it home the same day for a seven-day trial. The device can then be returned at no charge, or kept for a price of $549.
Green, now retired as a dentist, developed the device through his practice's work in dental sleep medicine. Evans, through his own background in medical device sales, aimed to get Green's treatments to people beyond just his practice's patients.
"What I've learned from all the hours I was spending with Steve was that 80 to 90 percent of people [with sleep apnea] don't know they have it," Evans said. "So one of the first observations I made to Steve was, 'Hey, too many of the people don't know they have this. You need to try to find them.'"
Some they've found included others within the IU basketball network.
Help for first-responders
Filmmaker Angelo Pizzo came into the Arora clinic earlier this month, along with IU basketball alum and former Evansville coach Jim Crews. Pizzo crafted the classic sports movies "Hoosiers" and "Rudy." Crews played with Green at IU in the mid-1970s and was the first college coach to recruit Evans at South. Knight won that prize, of course.
"After everybody got finished up getting their devices, we sat around and talked for about an hour and a half," Evans said. "It was pretty awesome."
Evans said he and Green envision the business expanding to other cities around Indiana and elsewhere, and to perhaps franchise. They also hope to develop an outreach to police and firefighters, as well as veterans.
"We're working on something right now with police and firefighters," Evans said. "A lot of folks in that group have not been asked the right questions. We really think we can help them. These are folks that need to be well rested, that sleep amongst each other, and if there are people disrupting other people's sleep, it's hurting more than one person."
Evans doesn't cope with sleep apnea himself, fortunately. He and his wife, Erin, live in Carmel with their four children, ranging from a high school sophomore, freshman, sixth-grader and third-grader. The pandemic has disrupted his kids' school routines, just like more than a million other K-through-12 students in Indiana who have adapted to masks, remote learning and attending on alternate days.
"I'm watching them struggle through all this, and I think they've done a nice job," Evans said, "but I hope that someday we reflect back and there are positives. I see that they're forced to deal with adversity, and a schedule that keeps changing, and learning how to adjust and go with the flow. I hope that's the sort of positives that come out of this for the kids."
Mark Bennett can be reached at 812-231-4377 or firstname.lastname@example.org.