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Amador Valley grad joins the circus

Basketball player enjoys being part of 'greatest show on earth'

Evan Wiley, 26, thought he might have a career in basketball when he played point guard at Las Positas College and Chabot after graduating in 2008 from Amador Valley High School.

"I've played basketball since I was about 2-3 years old, ever since I can remember," Wiley said. "I was on nationally ranked teams."

But when a run-in on the court resulted in a broken clavicle and torn rotator cuff and tendons, Wiley had to find another occupation.

He didn't have to look far. He had family members earning a living on unicycles with Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey circus, headquartered in Florida, and he thought that looked like fun -- as well as a challenge.

"I never rode a unicycle before, ever," Wiley said. "But knowing myself, I wanted to see if I could do it."

He still laughs at videos of his first awkward attempts and was told it might take a year to master the new skill.

"But I learned in two weeks," Wiley said.

His cousin put him in touch with Ringling Bros., and soon Wiley was learning to combine cycling with basketball -- and clowning around.

For three months, Wiley went through the circus initiation, a grueling process.

"It's like the Army, where they drill you, practicing eight to 10 hours a day," he said. "If you get through that, you're really good."

Now Wiley is part of Ringling Bros.' King Charles Troupe, which plays a wacky game of one-wheeled basketball for five minutes as the performance unfolds. The newest show, dubbed "Out of This World," follows an interplanetary search for the greatest circus performers, while battling an evil quest for intergalactic circus domination.

The King Charles act is fast and funny, and the clowning comes naturally to Wiley.

"In my everyday life, I'm funny," he said with a laugh. "They call me charismatic."

So he clowns around while riding a unicycle and playing basketball -- but that's not all.

"The whole concept is on ice -- we ride our unicycles on ice," Wiley said, explaining that the tires have embedded screws to grip the slippery surface.

"When we first come out, people go crazy," he added.

Audiences are appreciative of their entertaining efforts, he said, and understand if a performer falls, which he did once.

"You slide about 10 feet when you fall," he said. "We have ice skaters around us, and motorcycles on ice, and floats as well. There's a lot of action going on."

"Out of This World" is not billed as an ice show. Rather, the production combines ice, air and dry floor to alter the landscape as the travelers navigate the universe. That, along with amazing lighting effects, makes for a dazzling show, Wiley said.

The action begins with tightrope walkers dressed as astronauts, who perform on a rotating wheel. Then come ice skaters and acrobats. A nine-piece band plays more than 200 pieces of music, with 300 sound effects.

The journey includes a planet of big cats, with lions and tigers, Cossack Rider stunts on horseback, motorcycle daredevils, trapeze artists and clowns as well as the unicycle antics by the King Charles Troupe.

"It's an act we practice over and over," Wiley said. "There are guys up there who have been riding unicycles all their lives. You have to be one with the unicycle and to do tricks. We are on our bikes all day."

Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey is part of Feld Entertainment, which specializes in traveling shows, including Disney on Ice and Marvel Universe LIVE!

Wiley lives on the train with about 150 of the 220 or so members of his circus family as they cross the nation, stopping to present their show at major cities. They played in Oakland last week and are at the SAP Center in San Jose from now through Sept. 5. Tickets, which start at $20, are available through ticketmaster.com, by calling (800) 745-3000, or at the venue's box office.

Wiley notes that the performers have no age limit.

"I've met a lot of people who have been in the circus their whole life," he said. "It pays really well. It's a life."

Wiley is also musical, writing songs he described as rap-like combined with hip hop and pop. He noted that he keeps his lyrics clean, bearing in mind his two little girls, who are 4 years old and 9 months old. Wiley's parents both have internet careers -- his mom was hired by Steve Jobs, and his dad is at Salesforce.com -- but his family also has a musical vein. Brother Francois Wiley manages musicians, including rising Oakland rap star Kamaiyah.

"I've been blessed with a lot of good things," Evan Wiley said, including being adopted within his own family, and performing with three of his cousins in the circus.

At one time, ESPN predicted that Wiley was on his way to the NBA. At ESPN.com, the analyst stated that Wiley has "solid speed and quickness to get by most defenders ... He is not a true point guard as he looks to score too often."

And score he has -- with Ringling Bros. circus.

Comments

Like this comment
Posted by hazel
a resident of Vineyard Avenue
on Aug 30, 2016 at 9:43 am

My son played on the Amador varsity basketball team & graduated in 2008, he nor I have ever heard of Evan Wiley much less no him to have played basketball for the school, seems like some details in this story might be off a little bit.


Like this comment
Posted by Jeremy Walsh
associate editor
on Aug 31, 2016 at 5:29 pm

Jeremy Walsh is a registered user.

Thanks for the input, hazel. To explain, Evan Wiley said he only attended Amador Valley High School at the end of his senior year in 2008, after basketball season. He played basketball for other Bay Area high school teams, including Newark Memorial High School.


Like this comment
Posted by Jeez Louis
a resident of Avila
on Sep 16, 2016 at 3:02 pm

Wow Hazel, you should calm down and quit being such a hater. Nowhere does it say in the article that he played ball for Amador Valley.


Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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