Bock: Erik Stevenson Needs to Find Balance in Fiery Game
Erik Stevenson has been this team’s most valuable player all season. I will stick by that.
But his actions against Oklahoma State costed West Virginia a much-needed game in Stillwater on Monday. Now, WVU sits at 0-2 in Big 12 play as they host No. 3 Kansas this weekend.
Stevenson thrives off of talking trash with his opponents, you see it every game. He’s a competitor, it’s how the fifth-year senior enjoys the game of basketball. But at what point does Stevenson have to find that balance?
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“He knows better,” WVU head coach Bob Huggins said postgame. “Kenyon Martin was a fiery guy. Kenyon Martin didn’t do stupid things to get technicals and hurt his team. But he was a fiery guy. Pete Mickeal was a fiery guy. I’ve had a lot of fiery guys but not ones that would hurt their teammates.”
Stevenson knocked down a three-pointer with 7:20 left in the game to give West Virginia their first lead of the game. As the fifth-year senior was backpedaling to play defense, he made a slight gesture with his hand as he looked at the crowd.
With the technical, Stevenson picked up his fourth personal foul at the time, which resulted in his disqualification 90 seconds later. Oklahoma State proceeded to go on a run and defeat WVU 67-60.
Huggins went as far as to tell Tony Caridi on the postgame radio show that if Stevenson pulls anything like that again he’ll be asked to pack his bags up and head home.
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So what’s next?
For Stevenson, it’s time for him to show everyone the great leader he has been up to this point. Stevenson has taken the role as the vocal leader of the team, helping motivate all 14 other teammates. WVU’s basketball program has lacked someone with Stevenson’s vibe and energy for a while now. He does a lot of good, but this is the first time where his good is actually turning into a negative.
“I thought he was a little crazy at first, I’m going to be honest I did. I was like why is this dude yelling all the time,” WVU F Tre Mitchell said two weeks ago. “But then after playing with him and you see the passion that he plays with and you see the hunger, the want to win, it’s unmatched. It definitely elevates everyone’s level of play.”
Stevenson is averaging 14.1 points, 3.1 rebounds, 2.4 assists and 1.2 steals per game. The Washington native is shooting 51 percent from the field, 45 percent from three and 67 percent from the free throw line.
There’s a chance for Stevenson to find his balance of his trash talking game mixed with it being a positive for the team. He’s got the swagger to do it, he just has to be smart about it.