‘It’s been tough this week’: Stevenson overcomes emotional night to help Shockers win


Marshall Sunner

Wichita State sophomore Erik Stevenson alone on the bench crying prior to the game against UT-Martin on Nov. 16 inside Charles Koch Arena. It was after a moment of silence for his grandfather who died this past Veteran's Day.

Erik Stevenson was visibly upset ahead of Saturday’s game against UT-Martin, and rightfully so. Before the national anthem, a moment of reflection was held to honor Ron Wilson, Stevenson’s grandfather, who died unexpectedly on Monday while watching his beloved Seattle Seahawks.

He was 71.

Stevenson was 1,800 miles away from the man who he called his “favorite person” on the face of the Earth the day he died. The whole week leading up to the game, he was torn up.

It’s been tough this week. I can’t really speak on it without getting emotional,” Stevenson said.

During the moment of silence, the sophomore from Lacey, Washington, held a towel to his face and bawled. He was embraced by fellow sophomore Morris Udeze. After the national anthem played, Stevenson isolated himself on the bench, grabbed a towel, and shed more tears before the starting lineups were announced.

“I was very grateful for that moment that they did for me and my family,” Stevenson said. “I’m just glad I’m here with my brothers. This is the only spot I’d rather be than at home right now.” 

Playing through the sorrow, a single shot rekindled a spark of joy — Stevenson’s first shot of the game. The guard came around a screen, caught the ball, planted his feet, and let a three-pointer fly. 

It was a perfect swish. 

But the shot meant more to Stevenson than any he’d ever taken, he said. Wilson’s last text to Stevenson was simple and confidence driven:

Keep throwing up the threes, they’re going to fall.

“It had to go in,” Stevenson said. “He sent that text to me, and that one fell.”

Head Coach Gregg Marshall praised his player for overcoming adversity during the week.

“I’m telling you, his grandpa was a special, special gentleman. You could tell the reverence he was held in by everybody,” Marshall said. “It was hard for him. I was glad to see him have a great night, and I thought the school did a wonderful job in mentioning all of the accomplishments of his granddad.” 

Marshall also acknowledged the type of man Wilson was.

You could tell the reverence he was held in — not just by Erik and the family, but everybody. He was just one of those guys. He was a dude,” Marshall said. “He was a great fisherman, a great golfer. He was a great sportsman. He was a military hero. He jumped out of helicopters, I understand. And just died way too young, and it really tore Erik up.”

As a recruited sharpshooter, Stevenson has struggled early in his career with finding his shot, explaining the text from his grandfather. He’s just a 27.8% three-point shooter so far, but in the past two games for the Shockers, he’s started to find a grove. He scored a career-high 22 points against Texas Southern.

On Saturday, Stevenson’s shot was falling with his grandfather on his mind. He finished with 10 points on 4-7 shooting and knocked down two of the three treys he attempted. Stevenson also tallied three rebounds and an assist in the contest.

Several things are for certain. One, Wilson had confidence in Stevenson. Two, Stevenson’s teammates have his back — through both the happy and the rough times.

“I’m just happy for him,” sophomore Jamarius Burton said of Stevenson’s performance after the game. “I know he’s had a tough time, and we’ve all been here supporting him — just giving him what he needs during this time.”