MORGANTOWN — By his own account, Erik Stevenson is more than just a scorer for the WVU men’s basketball team.
He’s also part coach, part bracketologist, part motivator.
And maybe a little crazy, too.
“You guys (the media) know I’m a little different,” Stevenson says with a smile. “My teammates know I’ve got a screw loose in my head, like legit.”
All mental jokes aside, it’s Stevenson’s scoring down the stretch that has suddenly put him in lofty company.
Over his last five games to finish the regular season, the fifth-year senior from Lacey, Wash. has averaged 24.6 points per game, while scoring at least 23 in every game during that stretch.
You may have heard of the last guy to have a similar run at WVU, Kevin Jones, who ran off nine consecutive games of 20 or more points in his senior season of 2012.
Jones came up just one game short of the school record, which is shared by both Jerry West and “Hot” Rod Hundley.
So, if you’re mentioned in a WVU hoops story along with Jones, West and Hundley, well, that’s sort of how good it’s been going for Stevenson lately.
“When Stevenson decides he’s going to rise up over the top of you and drill shots the way he was, it makes it hard,” Kansas State head coach Jerome Tang said after the Mountaineers’ 89-81 victory against the 11th-ranked Wildcats on Saturday.
Stevenson had 27 against Kansas State and had another 27 against Texas Tech on Feb. 18 to begin his streak.
In between were three straight 23-point games against Oklahoma State, Kansas and Iowa State.
WVU (18-13, 7-11 Big 12) has gone 3-2 in that stretch, with the three wins seemingly solidifying a spot in the NCAA tournament for the Mountaineers.
“I’m just blessed, I don’t know how else to put it,” Stevenson said. “There’s not many people who get in a position like this and perform. I’ve got to credit my teammates. I’ve got to credit these fans and I’ve got to credit our coaching staff. They put me in positions to score and it’s my job to score.”
His regular season finished on an upswing in what was otherwise a roller coaster.
Throughout his first 31 games, Stevenson has battled a shooting slump — he referred to it as his annual Stevie-slump — a stomach bug, a trip to the hospital, food poisoning and WVU head coach Bob Huggins said the guard is currently battling a sore foot.
Stevenson has also battled his emotions, which got the better of him at the start of Big 12 play.
He was called for technical fouls and fouled out of losses against Kansas State and Oklahoma State, which prompted a warning from Huggins that one more incident would mean his removal from the team.
Stevenson made a public apology after those two games and then went six consecutive games shooting no better than 37.5% from the floor, before pouring in 31 points against Auburn in the Big East-SEC Challenge matchup.
Even leading up to this run, Stevenson had three straight games in which he didn’t reach double figures.
Just when it seemed like WVU’s leading scorer was in another struggle, he became as dependable as ever.
“I think guys started depending more on him, and he felt that they were depending more on him,” Huggins said. “I think you play a little looser, which he doesn’t have a problem of playing loose the way it is. Those other guys have been great encouragement to him, as well as him to them. I think they’ve helped Erik more than anyone else has.”
The Mountaineers head to Kansas City, Mo. on Wednesday to face Texas Tech in the opening round of the Big 12 tournament.
They’ll do so with maybe the best version of Stevenson WVU has seen all season.
“What it does is it gives everybody in the program more confidence, if that makes sense,” he said. “It gives my teammates more confidence in me. It gives me more confidence, if that’s possible.
“It gives our coaching staff more confidence that they can rely on me and the older guys.”