By: Brendan Zdunek–Staff Writer
A sudden death of a human being, especially that of a young one, has lasting effects on a community. When it comes to both the University of Dayton and the Flyer men’s basketball team, it has definitely brought them closer together.
That sudden death came on May 12, 2016, when Steve McElvene, a rising redshirt sophomore for the Flyers, died after collapsing in his home in Indiana from an enlarged heart. It was a shocking and devastating moment for the team as a whole.
“It was a very difficult thing to go through for not just me but the assistant coaches, academic coordinators, strength coaches, trainers, his teammates, his teammates’ families,” said head coach Archie Miller. “We had 25-30 people in our immediate basketball family who were just rocked, people who were with him every day who were really stunned. That’s not even contemplating all the other people.”
McElvene, better known as “Big Steve,” from New Haven, Ind. was only 20 years old and had just finished up his first season on the court. After being ruled a partial qualifier by the NCAA for his freshman year, he came into his redshirt freshman season as a promising young player averaging 6.1 points, 5.6 rebounds, and 1.7 blocks per game.
Furthermore, he set Dayton’s single-season record for blocks with 55, was sixth all-time for Dayton freshmen in rebounds with 179, and had the best shooting percentage by a UD freshman with 61.0% from the field. It was a fantastic first year for him and he looked to have a promising future as a Dayton Flyer.
His death was an obvious trauma for the team, but now, with another basketball season upon them, they have newfound motivation on the court. Although an Atlantic 10 conference title or a big tournament run are motivation enough, playing for Big Steve is certainly paramount.
“He’s never forgotten. Whenever we’re in the huddle, we always think about him,” said senior guard Scoochie Smith.
Sophomore forward Xeyrius Williams even captioned an Instagram post “this season is for you, big fella.” The team has the young man on their minds and it seems it will stay that way all season long.
To further commemorate Big Steve, the team has conjured up some tributes for the season. “We’re getting a patch of a black number 5 on our jerseys. So, that’s a good thing to do for Steve,” said junior guard Darrell Davis.
The uniform markers are most likely going to happen, but there are other ideas that are not completely set in stone.
“We’re going to try to give his family an opportunity to come back, see a game, and be recognized in front of our fans. That’s something I’m looking to do,” said Miller. “And just in general, I hope to do a couple things like that keep him on our minds and honor him in the right way.”
Furthermore, the players themselves might make their own individual tributes to Steve.
“Individually, there are different memories that everyone gets from him so there are different things that people might do in tribute,potential” said Smith.
This season will be one of remembrance for Big Steve, especially with all the tributes that have been at least loosely planned, and truly that is the way it needs to be. Steve was a player with potential, a promising career, and a promising life. But now, all that can be done is to remember him for the great and inspiring person he was and make accomplishments on the court in honor of him.