Erik Stevenson has played for four different teams across five seasons in his college career but will make his lone appearance in the NCAA Tournament today when his team takes on Maryland.
Stevenson started his career at Wichita State for two seasons before transferring to Washington and then South Carolina. He then elected to use his final year at West Virginia.
The senior guard was well on his path to the Big Dance during his sophomore season at Wichita State but unfortunately the tournament was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
That alone hurt, but it stung even more so after transferring back home to Washington the following year and being nowhere close to qualifying for the event as one of the worst teams in college basketball.
“I was hot because we won like five games when I was at Washington. We went from 23 wins to 5 wins and you all know how competitive and winning based I am. It was driving me crazy,” he said.
Last season at South Carolina, Stevenson had more success at 18-13 but his team wasn’t able to do enough to be included in the field. That made this year a do or die situation when it comes to being able to experience the rush of emotions that the NCAA Tournament brings.
It was the entire season he elected to come to Morgantown in the first place and why he didn’t look at options outside of college basketball. Now, that time has come.
“It seems like I played a thousand college games. So, I mean, I had this feeling last year like this might be my last game. But I got the year back and I’m glad I’m going to end my career where I want to in the NCAA Tournament,” Stevenson said.
The third-team all-Big 12 Conference selection has had a mixture of ups and downs during his lone year at West Virginia but is playing his best basketball at the right time.
Stevenson had a stretch of scoring 23 or more points in five consecutive games to end the regular season making him one of only five players to do so in the history of the basketball program. It’s a list that includes Jerry West, Rod Thorn, Hot Rod Hundley and Will Robinson for perspective.
Now, Stevenson is hoping that carries over into the Big Dance. And there of course is going to be a battling of nerves somewhat but this is where his experience comes into play.
“It’s hard to believe that he’s played for the coaches that he’s played for and the programs he’s played in and he hasn’t played in an NCAA Tournament. So hopefully he’s kind of settled down and plays this like he would play any other game,” head coach Bob Huggins said.
At 15.5 points per game and shooting 38-percent from three, both career highs, Stevenson is hoping that he can play his role in extending his goal further than simply the first round. But a tough Terrapins team waits on the other side in the 8/9 matchup and then likely No. 1 overall seed Alabama.
But his teammates have little doubt that Stevenson will be ready. As senior point guard Kedrian Johnson said that his backcourt mate will shoot the ball well inside Legacy Arena.
In large part because this is exactly what he’s asked for since putting on a West Virginia jersey.
“It’s the bright lights, it’s the NCAA Tournament. Erik going to make a lot of shots,” Johnson said.
Time will tell if it’s enough for the Mountaineers to keep dancing another day.