Steve McElvene: A teammate's reflection on a year after his friend's death
Have you ever had one of those days when you woke up in a bad mood and you knew you were not going to be fun to be around? Steve McElvene never did. In fact, Big Steve was the guy who changed your mood on those days. Big Steve was always laughing and making others laugh.
Of course, it was fun to watch his growth as a basketball player; there was no doubt he was going to be a special player. But the best thing about Big Steve was that he was a special person.
All throughout campus, people knew Big Steve. He was hard to miss at 6-foot-11; but had he been 6-foot, people would still know him. He never met a person he wasn’t willing to talk to. Talking to Steve for even 10 seconds meant you were either going to laugh or he was going to flash you his big smile. You’d think there would be some students who wouldn’t picture themselves hanging out in the dorms with a 7-foot basketball player. But there was Big Steve hanging out with anyone and everyone who wanted to be around him.
He was famous for screaming during his NBA 2K video game matches in Marycrest residence hall. Steve was never very good at video games, but he’d never turn down a game. Then there was the time Steve and two of his friends held up traffic in front of Caldwell apartments because they had to finish their dance routine. Steve loved dancing and, as with everything else, did not care if others thought he was good or not.
Steve was just about spreading joy. The basketball team believed Big Steve was at his best when he was around us, but Steve’s love and memory can be shared with everyone who had the pleasure of knowing him.
Some of the best Big Steve stories do come from him on the basketball court. After sitting out his first year, Steve was enormously excited to play in his first game; his entire family came to Dayton to watch him. Steve had transformed his body to the point where he was an entirely new player. Early in the game, Steve scored his first career basket and proceeded up the court while looking and shouting toward his family. While he was doing that, the player he was guarding ran down the court and scored. Steve was just so excited to be playing basketball.
Once, at an open gym, Steve was talking about how he was going to dunk on guys and called out people who got dunked on. Kendall Pollard then dunked all over Steve. That did nothing to stop Steve from talking trash though.
Flyer Fans may want to forget the Advocare Invitational against Xavier, but Steve made it memorable for the team. Coach Miller emphasized to us that Xavier would run a certain play to get a dunk to start the game. In typical Steve fashion, he let the team know that no one was going to be dunking on him. The first possession for Xavier ended with Steve being dunked on.
That game did not go well for any Flyer. There were many long faces afterward; Steve was one of them. The team didn’t talk about that game until a few days later in the locker room when Steve made a joke about Kendall getting dunked on. In an instant the room was filled with loud voices and laughter pointing out to Steve that it was him who got dunked on.
I think Steve knew it was him from the beginning; but, knowing our team needed something to get our spirits up, he was perfectly fine being the butt of the joke. Steve just wanted to play basketball with his brothers and make people happy.
The way someone lives a life can teach others important lessons; Steve’s was no different. He taught us how to be truly selfless and that the only way to be truly fulfilled in life is to have an impact on the other people around you. We should all ask ourselves if we are making an impact on our community. It doesn’t have to be by being the personality Steve was; an impact can be made in a multitude of ways.
Scholarships are one such way. Ann Kremer had never met Big Steve but, as an avid Dayton Flyers fan, was inspired by what he stood for, both on and off the court. After his death, she wanted to keep his spirit alive. Through the Naum Family Foundation, Ann established a scholarship at UD, what she calls “the first big step” in creating a legacy for Steve’s name. She said she hopes her gift “will inspire others touched like I was by this remarkable young man to think about how we too can make a positive impact on our UD community.”
For me and my teammates, Steve’s passing from a heart condition was sad, but it inspired us at the same time.
We, his teammates, can remember Steve by living life to the fullest and chasing our dreams. Steve had big dreams of playing in the NBA. As his teammates we must pursue our dreams with the same work ethic and drive that Steve used to become a college basketball player.
More importantly, we must pursue our dreams with Steve in our mind and hearts. Because he can’t, we must. We are our brother’s keeper.
Big Steve inspired others -- Steve McElvene holds the Dayton Flyers men’s basketball program’s record for blocked shots in a season. But he also, even after his death following that impressive freshman season, has a hold on the memories and dreams of those who knew him. Teammate and friend Jeremiah Bonsu ’17 was one of those touched by Big Steve... and he continues to be. McElvene’s example also impressed Ann Kremer. She wanted to ensure that it would be an inspiration for future students. So she established a scholarship in his memory. And with the help of others also touched by McElvene’s vibrancy and generosity, Kremer hopes to see Big Steve’s spirit continue to enrich Dayton Flyers for a long time to come. The Steve McElvene Memorial Scholarship will be awarded to a Flyer student-athlete, manager or trainer who has financial need and exhibits the characteristics that Big Steve did — working hard in sports and in academics, acting as a good teammate and embracing life with enthusiasm. To donate to the scholarship fund, go to gift.udayton.edu.