FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE)- Players, coaches and sports fans alike are mourning the death of a 20-year-old basketball standout Steve McElvene. McElvene was a New Haven High School graduate and University of Dayton basketball player. He died suddenly after collapsing in his family’s home Thursday morning.
An autopsy was conducted by the Allen County Coroner’s Office, however additional testing and examinations are needed before a final cause and manner of death are determined.
McElvene was known to most people as “Big Steve” and it was easy to see why. He stood 6-foot-11 inches tall and weighed in at about 270 pounds. His size may be what catches people’s attention, but it’s his character on and off the court that left a lasting impression on those that knew him.
Former teammate and friend V.J. Beachem said if there was only one word to describe him, it would be big.
“Everything as far as his personality… he was a big guy, big smile, big future,” said Beachem.
Beachem played basketball alongside McElvene at New Haven High School. They were bulldog brothers and went on to win the Sectional Championship together. Beachem plays basketball for Notre Dame now. But even after high school he and McElvene never drifted apart.
“I played with Steve last night and the night before,” he said. “When I found out today I didn’t believe it. I had to make sure from multiple people that it was true. And you know even now, it still hasn’t even hit me yet.”
McElvene joined the New Haven High School basketball team his junior year after moving from Alabama. Coach Adrian Gatewood said even though he already had the height, he put in a lot of work to become the athlete we now know.
“Some people might have thought that because he’s a 6’11 high school kid it’s going to be easy for him,” said Gatewood. “It wasn’t easy but Steve kept fighting. He kept working.”
His hard work landed him a spot on the University of Dayton’s basketball team. Coach Bruce Stephens said he was exactly where he belonged.
“Basketball was very important to him and he wanted it,” said Coach Bruce Stephens. “It was no fluke that he was able to make it to a D-1 school and a big school like Dayton.”
As a freshman he set the Dayton single-season record for blocks with 55. He averaged 6.1 points and 5.6 rebounds for the Flyers.
Stephens said McElvene was just starting to reach his potential as a basketball player, but as a person he reached his peak. McElvene had just visited New Haven High School Wednesday to speak to a class of academically at-risk students about how he was able to turn his life around.
“He had a lot of potential,” said Stephens. “Good things were going to happen to him. He had already reached his potential as a human being he was a great person. Just fun to be around.”
New Haven High School will have grief counselors available for students and staff Friday. It’s still uncertain what caused his death. Although multiple coaches believe a heart condition may have played a factor.