Donaven Dorsey got a text message from a friend on Friday night — Erik Stevenson broke his record.
“I kind of knew it was going to happen,” Dorsey said. “I was just waiting.”
The two had a conversation about this record less than six months ago while lifting weights at Timberline High School. Giovonne Woods, a friend of the program and a former River Ridge player, brought the subject up back in July.
Remember that game against Kentwood in 2013, when Dorsey became a makeshift point guard, and rolled off a school-record 44 points?
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He told Dorsey he’d beat that this year. Dorsey said something like, “All right, we’ll see.”
“Any type of challenge (Stevenson) gets, he’s trying to rise to the occasion,” Timberline coach Allen Thomas said.
Stevenson scored 45 points against North Thurston on Friday, including the final 24 points, to lead the Blazers to a 78-74 win over their crosstown rival.
“I just attacked the basket early on in the game, and started getting easy buckets at the free-throw line, getting layups, getting jumpers in the paint,” said Stevenson, a junior.
“I didn’t even know it, but my scoring total kept increasing. They kept giving me the ball, and I just kept making plays.”
Dorsey offered his congratulations. The two players have, after all, worked out together for the past several years, conditioning, shooting and refining their ball-handling.
That’s how Dorsey, who is redshirting at the University of Montana this season after transferring from Washington, recognized Stevenson’s potential to play beyond high school.
Woods, who plays professionally overseas, helped develop Dorsey, and Dorsey has done the same for Stevenson.
“He’s challenging me every day, and I’m challenging Erik every day,” Dorsey said. “It’s a circuit of us all getting better. If Erik can score and play defense on us, he can do it at the high school level.”
Stevenson’s wide range of ability — his athleticism, his range from beyond the perimeter, his ability to finish above the rim — has been showcased time and again on basketball courts around the South Sound.
Last season, he was the youngest player named to the Class 4A Narrows League first team as a sophomore, and the youngest player on The Olympian’s All-Area team.
He averaged 19 points and attracted attention from colleges. Since July, Stevenson has collected five Division I offers, from Old Dominion, Cal Poly, Wichita State, Hawaii and Washington State.
“His ability to separate himself through his work ethic has made him who he is,” Thomas said. “That’s no secret. There’s plenty of guys who are talented, who are college players, but while a lot of guys are going home after school … he’s not doing that.”
Stevenson breaks down his own performance after games. He’ll text Thomas, sometimes as late as midnight, with ideas on how he can improve.
“He just cares so much about the game, and I think he really cares about how people perceive him, and I think that’s what’s driving him to be the best,” Thomas said.
Stevenson has played in New York and Las Vegas with his AAU team, Washington Supreme, in front of high-profile recruiters from schools such as Kentucky, North Carolina and Duke.
Stevenson, a 6-foot-4 guard with a size 15 shoe, said his competitiveness on the court is a point of his game that has been praised when schools have approached him.
“A lot of the coaches I have spoken to like the fact that he’s a combo guard, who is still growing into his body,” Thomas said. “His IQ for the game, especially playing with elite competition, and his competitive edge, not backing down from guys twice his size.”
Stevenson’s shooting ability — he’s averaging 22 points through six games so far this season — tends to be what marvels spectators. But Dorsey notices something that could be more valuable as Stevenson continues on.
“He has fearlessness that I didn’t have at his age,” Dorsey said. “He doesn’t take any plays off, he always plays 110 percent. He loves to win so much, sometimes it hurts him, but, at the same time, fearlessness goes a long way. A lot of guys don’t have that.”
Stevenson hates to lose.
Before his record-breaking game against North Thurston, he remembered what happened two days earlier.
“I was thinking about Capital, and what they did to us, and how they’re crosstown rivals to us now because they’re in our league,” Stevenson said, referencing Timberline’s stunning 25-point loss to the Cougars last week.
“I wasn’t going to let Thurston beat us.”
That became quite clear. The Rams led by 12 points early in the fourth quarter before Stevenson engineered the comeback, scoring eight points apiece on jumpers, from inside the paint, and from the free-throw line.
He plays a lot better when the pressure is on, he said.
“It’s just my passion, and love for the game, and my will to win,” Stevenson said.
That fire is what Thomas hopes will help carry Timberline (4-2, 2-1 3A South Sound Conference) through the 3A classification this season.
“It’s pretty clear now that he is the face of the program,” Thomas said. “But what he’s been doing that has changed a lot of the chemistry on the team is, at practice, in the locker room, on the court, he’s the guy who has actually been encouraging teammates a lot more.”
He’s become more of a leader, teammate Eli Morton said.
“The team, everybody gets along, and everybody communicates, and everybody trusts everybody,” Morton said. “That’s what is key is trust. Everybody has everybody’s back.”
“I think that his trust in his teammates has been the biggest difference between last year and this year,” Thomas said. “Their bond outside of basketball, outside of practice, has been great for a coach to see.”
Thomas said when Stevenson is on course it fuels Morton, Tariq Romain, Jaelen Bush and other teammates.
“We go how he goes,” Thomas said. “If he has a good attitude and is positive and encourages his teammates, it goes a long way.”
And Timberline wants to go a long way this season. The team has set daily goals to improve, Morton said, and has its sights set on something bigger.
“We had a team meeting the other day,” Stevenson said. “Our three goals are league, district and state title. All three of those are going to be tough to get. Any title is tough to get, but we believe we can get them.”