One Washington State AAU team has produced two of West Virginia Men’s Basketball’s most anticipated transfers.
Tea washington supreme, out of Seattle, rostered both Emmitt Matthews Jr. and Erik Stevenson during Summer 2017. At that point, Matthews Jr. was committed to UConn, while Stevenson had done the same with Wichita State. They seemed to have the next four years planned out.
Neither could have predicted where they would be five years later.
“I think it was like second grade or third grade,” Matthews Jr. said of how far he and Stevenson’s friendship dates back. “It’s honestly crazy. That’s my guy. The journey’s crazy because you never know where you’re going to go, who you’re going to run into, let alone who you’re going to play with. Now you’re in college and you’re playing with a kid you’ve been playing with your whole, entire life.”
The two have known each other since elementary school, but Stevenson clarified that they’ve been playing together since sixth grade.
“I’ve known Emmitt since, I don’t know, elementary school,” Stevenson said. “I think our first year playing together was sixth grade, but we knew each other before that. We played a little bit with each other through middle school, and then in high school, we played with each other, AAU-wise.”
The Washington Supreme summer ball team that rostered Stevenson and Matthews Jr. brought together the best high school basketball players from the Pacific Northwest, but the majority of them stayed in the PNW for college ball.
That naturally created a bond between Stevenson and Matthews Jr., who both decided to follow their college basketball dreams nearly as far away from the Seattle metro area as possible.
Stevenson’s college basketball journey, one more akin to a pinball machine than traditional recruiting, is no secret. His Wichita State stay lasted a pair of years before the journey took him home for a season with the Washington Huskies in 2020.
A season later, Matthews Jr. left WVU en route to the same location, on a quest to find himself and fine-tune his skills. The two missed a meeting in the purple and gold by mother months.
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2021 saw Stevenson working toward starting all 31 games with the Gamecocks and Matthews Jr. on the opposite coast, perfecting his jump shot and yearning for West Virginia.
When both entered the transfer portal, a unique opportunity presented itself. Matthews Jr. wanted to play his final season for WVU head coach Bob Huggins, and Stevenson’s South Carolina head coach, Frank Martin, had just been fired. Neither wanted to stay with their programs a day longer.
“It was last April, May-ish we started talking about it,” Stevenson said. “We only talked three or four times. We’re old, so we don’t need a recruiting pitch to go back to where we came from, and he doesn’t need to give me a recruiting pitch. Just give me the basics I was going to come [to WVU] regardless. That’s just how much I liked it.”
The two were finally about to reunite for the first time since high school.
“They were easy,” Matthews Jr. said of he and Stevenson’s conversations while in the portal. “‘Where do you want to do?’ ‘How are we going to go about this?’ There was a possibility that we could play together. That’s just how it went.”
According to Stevenson, it was Matthews Jr.’s idea to head to West Virginia. He became the catalyst, and suddenly, both were boarding flights to Pittsburgh.
“It was a lot of Emmitt,” Stevenson said. “Me and Emmitt grew up 20 minutes from each other. Obviously, Emmitt played here. Then he transferred back home. We have a lot of things in common, because we left home, came back, didn’t like it, and left home again. We talked a bunch, especially after Frank [Martin] got fired. We talked a good amount. Obviously, I talked to the staff here. Next thing I knew, I was on a plane.”
Sixteen years after meeting on the court for the first time, Matthews Jr. and Stevenson are concluding their basketball careers the way they started: together.
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