Life can sometimes take you to unexpected places.
That’s exactly how childhood friends Emmitt Matthews and Erik Stevenson feel after reuniting across the country for their final season of college basketball.
The two have known each other since they were in what Matthews estimates to be second or third grade and have stayed in touch ever since.
“It’s crazy that it’s my guy. The trip is crazy. You never know where you may go, who you will meet,” the fifth-year senior season.
The pair grew up in Washington and played together on their first team in sixth grade. In high school, they played on the same AAU teams, but it seemed destined for the two to go their separate ways. Stevenson will sign with Wichita State and take a path that saw him transfer to Washington and South Carolina before Gamecocks head coach Frank Martin was relieved of his duties.
It forced Stevenson to explore his options for his senior season and after the West Virginia coaching staff got to see him up close in a contest where he scored 22 points as a sophomore, his abilities were still fresh in their spirit.
Matthews, meanwhile, started his career with the Mountaineers and spent three seasons with the program before choosing to return home to Washington. After his most productive college season averaging 11 points, he also wanted to explore a transfer and still had a possible return to West Virginia in mind.
The two friends realized that the possibility of playing a final season together was definitely on the line and that West Virginia could provide that for them. Matthews already knew what to expect, while Stevenson just needed an official visit to campus in order to solidify things with him.
“We talked a lot after Frank was fired and the next thing I know I was on a plane to come here Friday night on an official visit and that was it,” Stevenson said.
For Matthews, there was little compelling to get him back to where he had already found much success. And while Stevenson planned to come to Morgantown regardless of what Matthews decided to go, there was definitely an appeal to play together once more.
Matthews therefore opted to return to Morgantown and now the pair will be able to play together for the first time since their high school days. On the ground, Matthews describes the two as fire and ice with the difference in their behaviors.
“He is fiery, he has a fire under him for sure. He’s been like that all his life. Eric is a closed book, but once it opens you get all the chapters on one page,” he said. “When we were playing younger he was that fire guy, I was that ice guy, I try to keep things smooth and calm and he’s ready to run through a wall.”
Now, the two Washington natives are ready to make the most of their final year together. Something neither of them could have imagined even last year.
The couple took part in a photo shoot during their senior years in high school, standing next to each other, holding the basketball. It was a good memory for everyone.
And West Virginia allowed them to relive that.
“We created this image in our senior year,” Matthews said.
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