tampabay.com

Chubby Checker is a Duke dad

By GREG AUMAN
Published April 4, 2006


BOSTON - Duke senior forward Mistie Williams got a voicemail from her father this week, relaying a simple message for the Final Four: "Keep a cool head."

Instead of the standard proud-parents-cheering story, this has a twist: Williams' father is Ernest Evans , better known as 1960s sensation Chubby Checker , who recorded hits such as The Twist and Limbo Rock .

He can't make it to tonight's championship because of a business conflict, but said watching his daughter and her team play has been a joy.

"It's been wonderful, an experience I've never had," Evans, 64, said. "She's a blessed person, an angel, and she's made all the right decisions. I've never seen a group of girls fight so hard to win."

Evans never married Williams' mother, Pam Bass , but has kept a good relationship with his daughter, even if it was often only by phone. He attended her final home game this season, singing the national anthem.

"I've always had a relationship with my father, and my mother's done a great job of making sure I knew there was always love there," she said. "It's only gotten stronger as I've gotten older."

Evans will get to Boston on Wednesday for the WNBA draft, where Williams hopes to be selected. She has been praised by her coaches for the poise and maturity she has showed in the spotlight, and Evans said he hopes that's one way he has been able to help.

"She's used to all that, and she's so good at being able to stay focused," he said. "When I'm at her games, I get a heart attack. I'm so nervous for her, but it's been a great four years. I feel like I'm a student."

OH, WELL: For the first time, the WNBA draft will be held the day after the title game, also in Boston. Duke's Monique Currie , projected as a top-five pick, said there are pros and cons to the new setup.

"It's going to cut down on party time for me," Currie said. "I'll have to wake up in the morning. But it's great for women's basketball to have it here."

THIS AND THAT: Boston's TD Banknorth Center is sold out for all three games, and the attendance of 18,642 is the eighth-largest average in 25 years of women's Final Fours. ... After her playing days, Maryland center Laura Harper may have a future as an analyst. The Terrapins' media guide asks players to predict the Final Four, and Harper correctly tabbed Maryland, Duke and North Carolina, though she had Tennessee as her fourth team. ... Even the top-seeded teams can get a little inadvertent disrespect. The handout for Sunday's starting lineups identified Duke as the "Blue Demons."