MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – Erik Stevenson is accustomed to joining a new team. The fifth-year senior guard played two seasons at Wichita State before a pair of one-year stints at Washington and South Carolina.
He is in the midst of his latest one-season stop. Stevenson will play his final season of college basketball at West Virginia for Bob Huggins.
“I love it here. It’s been a great transition,” said Stevenson. “It’s been a great fit. They let me come in right away and insert my personality on the team.”
In his first preseason meeting with the media, Huggins said Stevenson quickly became a vocal leader on the team, whether his new teammates wanted him to or not. It’s that personality, along with his shot-making ability, that makes Stevenson endearing to teammates new and old.
With two years of eligibility remaining before the 2021-2022 season, Stevenson’s second dip in the transfer portal landed him at South Carolina. The Gamecocks dismissed former head coach Frank Martin shortly after the conclusion of the campaign, which led to Stevenson’s decision to transfer for the third time.
Stevenson referred to the USC coaching change and his decision to transfer as a “blessing” despite originally planning to play both of his final seasons at South Carolina. Following discussions with coaches across the country, and former middle school and AAU teammate Emmitt Matthews Jr., Stevenson decided to spend his final collegiate season in Morgantown.
The head coach he would play for also weighed heavily on his decision.
“I did my research, and I wanted to throw my money in the basket where I’m playing for a Hall of Famer. … For my last year, I wanted to be somewhere where I know I’m going to win. And Huggs has proven that.”Erik Stevenson
Huggins’ coaching style is nothing new for Stevenson. He relates Huggins’ approach to two of his former coaches in Martin and Wichita State’s Gregg Marshall.
“It’s never really anything new hearing the guys yell, or having coaches be tough on us. In my opinion, that’s how you win,” said Stevenson. “That’s probably why I came here – that’s one of the biggest reasons why I came here. I know Huggs is going to have a level of accountability, and we’re going to win games.”
The veteran guard has played 125 college basketball games and won over 50 percent. The ability to be vocal and be himself is a big part of his game, according to Stevenson.
He averages 11.6 points per contest in his career but has performed at his best during seasons in which his personality shined brightest.
That personality sounds like it will pair with Huggins nicely.
“I’m just firey man, I’m competitive. I’ve kind of got a trigger to me,” said Stevenson. “It’s probably good and bad, it’s definitely better than it used to be. You know what I mean? I’ve definitely toned it down. When I feel like I’m involved, and I feel like I can lead and have a voice, the teams I’m on are usually pretty good. We’re going to have a good year, I promise.”
An opportunity to once again be himself was as much part of Stevenson’s decision to come to WVU as the head coach he’d be playing for. The coaching staff’s track record of developing players was also key.
“I feel like the player development here has been really well-executed,” Stevenson said, who credited assistant coach Larry Harrison along with The Bear.
Stevenson has matched up against Huggins and the Mountaineers once previously in his career. That was Nov. 27, 2019 at the Cancun Challenge. Stevenson, then a sophomore, led Wichita State with 22 points and added five rebounds.
It was a performance that stuck with Huggins, who described the guard as being an interesting player to watch. Stevenson scored 16 of his 22 total points in the second half.
“He got them back in the game. We had them down pretty good, and he came off the bench and got them back in the game,” Huggins said.
The fifth-year senior guard can remember almost every WVU player he played against that day in Mexico.
While Stevenson’s performance in that game impressed his future head coach, it was Huggins’ style that solidified the Washington native’s decision to become a Mountaineer.
“The first time I saw Huggs was down there in the hotel on the river the next morning, because I got in late,” Stevenson said. “I walked downstairs and he [was wearing] baggy sweats and a baggy top. (Laugh) Drinking coffee. That was Huggs. And I was like ‘Yeah, I’m coming here. It doesn’t matter.'”