By: Steve Miller – Sports Editor
“Infectious smile” has been the most popular term used by friends and fans to describe Steve McElvene, the 6’11” Dayton basketball player, in the wake of his tragic death on May 12 in New Haven, IN. McElvene will be remembered for his defensive prowess as much as his jovial nature and amiable presence off the court.
“Any death is a tragedy, but for someone so young who worked so hard to have his dreams within reach, it’s hard to put into words how painful this is,” head coach Archie Miller said in a statement last week.
The rising redshirt-sophomore center certainly had come a long way.
Hard work and substantial progress characterized the two years McElvene spent on UD’s campus. As an academic redshirt his freshman year, McElvene practiced with the team, getting himself physically and mentally prepared for the challenges of the collegiate level of play.
Then, this past season, he had to acclimate his game with the strict nature of fouls called on his physical play.
In one of Dayton’s worst losses this year, a 90-61 defeat against Xavier, McElvene fouled out with just two rebounds and a block on his stat sheet. But he rebounded himself the next game and recorded a double-double with 14 points and 10 rebounds against North Florida.
“I just kind of played with a chip on my shoulder,” McElvene said following that win. “The last few games I hadn’t played too well.”
“Steve works very hard, he has great practice habits,” Miller said of his center two days after that performance. “And I think as the course of the season continues to go he’s going to play a vital role for us.”
Miller was right, of course, as McElvene ended the season with 55 blocks, a single-season record for the University of Dayton.
He also set a UD record for shooting percentage by a freshman, hitting 61% of his shots from the field this season. That number is greatly influenced, though, by the fact that the majority of his shots were taken within a few feet—or inches—of the basket.
He did it all with that infectious smile and thunderous presence, inciting rousing chants of “Steve says no!” from the Flyer faithful with each monster block.
Since his death, an outpouring of support from the UD community has flooded the McElvene family and the men’s basketball program—the kind of love and encouragement that makes this tragedy a little less unbearable.
The Flyers still have more than five months before they have to take the court without their big man, but that will hardly lessen the pain of their friend being taken too soon.
Funeral arrangements are set for this Saturday, May 21 at 11 a.m. at Abundant Life Church in New Haven, IN.