Flyers playing for Big Steve tonight in Indianapolis
INDIANAPOLIS/FORT WAYNE -- Archie Miller called for help from the late Steve McElvene on Selection Sunday.
"Maybe Steve can block a shot for us," the Dayton head coach said.
Jenell Shoals, Steve's mom, heard the cry for help loud and clear.
"We really gotta take the standup now," Shoals said.
That standup she's referring to is a 7-foot cardboard cutout of her son, who died suddenly of an enlarged heart last May at their home in Fort Wayne. The Flyers have been dedicating the entire season to their fallen teammate, most visibly shown by the No. 5 patch each player wears on their jersey.
Despite her son not being out there on the floor this season, Shoals watched every Flyers basketball game this year, even if it meant watching the recording.
"I just feel obligated to watch. I watch the game and I'm like, 'Okay, if Doody [Steve's nickname] was there, that wouldn't have happened'. Or, 'If Doody was there he would've blocked the ball'."
Shoals says it's fitting the Flyers got sent to her play in the NCAA Tournament in her son's home state of Indiana. The team knows it would've been a big moment for Big Steve on Selection Sunday.
"He would've been screaming, 'We going back to the crib, bro! We going back to the crib,'" senior Scoochie Smith said.
Because of the trip from Fort Wayne is just two hours away, Shoals is able to come watch the Flyers in person for just the third time this season. She's coming with her sister and her friend, Pam. But she's also coming with Steve.
"I think they'll play a little bit better if they just see him," Shoals said.
If she can find a way to get the life-size cutout of Steve into Bankers Life Fieldhouse Friday night, the Flyers will see Big Steve.
"That would be crazy, man," senior Kendall Pollard said. "It would definitely give us a boost."
"We haven't seen Steve's face since the funeral," senior Kyle Davis said. "It means a lot to us just to even have a picture of him in the crowd, just a cutout, to show us what we've been missing."
Pollard adds if he blocks a shot Friday night against Wichita State, he'll pat the No. 5 on his chest.
The Flyers hope to get more than a few blocks and a win.
They hope to extend a season dedicated for Big Steve.