Many people are concerned that a good 2013-14 season from A.J. Hammons could mean the big man leaves early for the NBA. If Sandi Marcius indeed does not return Hammons will undoubtedly be The Man in the middle for Purdue, and he has the talent and size to be a definitely lottery pick if he puts it all together. That means looking for his replacement in the 2014 recruiting class isn't a bad idea.
Enter New Haven's Steve McElvene.
If you haven't heard of him it is no big deal. Most people haven't he had perhaps the most impressive day in the regional round of this year's state tournament a few weeks ago. In taking out Bryson Scott's Fort Wayne Northrop team 65-60 and losing a close 65-57 game to Carmel in the night game McElvene, a big 6'11" center had a huge day. He finished with 39 points, 33 rebounds and 10 blocks over two games and was virtually unstoppable anywhere around the basket.
He wasn't playing against a bunch of scrubs, either. His team went 18-6 this year with senior teammate and Notre Dame recruit V.J. Beachem getting most of the attention. Northrop was a legitimate top 10 team all season and Carmel was only the state's No. 1 team and now two-time defending state champion. New Haven gave Carmel one of its best games in the tournament and they were the only team after the sectional round to lead them in the fourth quarter.
New Haven did not play a weak schedule, either. They lost to Northrop in the regular season and lost to 3A runner-up Fort Wayne Concordia. They twice defeated a pretty good Homestead team and were 17-3 last season before getting stunned in the first round of the state tournament.
I saw McElvene in the first game up at Marion when I was scouting Bryson and he is definitely a player that will draw some late interest and shoot up the Indiana talent boards. As I stated, he is 6'11" and he plays like a traditional center. He is known as Big Steve, and he even plays football:
Yes, he is 6'11" 290 pounds already. The reason we haven't heard much of him is that he moved in this year from Alabama. He averaged 9.9 points and 9.6 rebounds per game but really turned it on in the postseason. In the sectional final against Homestead he had 18 points, 16 rebounds, and four blocks. Against Northrop he just missed a triple-double with 24-16-8. In the night game he was 7 of 8 from the field with 15 points and 17 rebounds with two more blocks:
What makes McElvene so scary, besides the fact that he will return for a senior season, is his secondary attributes. He does not play stiff like some tall players at the prep level and his hands are remarkably soft for someone his size. He showed an ability to step a few feet away from the basket and make a short jumper and has a great drop step in the paint.
The article later states that he did not go to the bench in either game. The Northrop-New Haven game was incredibly fast paced but he was out there for 32 minutes, then came back and played 32 minutes against Carmel.
McElvene is a fantastic rebounder that is very adept at getting putbacks and second chance points. He likes to get the ball and go up strong without hesitation. He's not afraid of contact, which gets him to the foul line. Unfortunately, that is the weakest part of his game. His free throw shooting stroke was pretty awful and definitely could use a lot of coaching, but we're still talking about a big body that can't be moved off of the low block.
Because he was a late bloomer there is almost no recruiting news on him out there, but his Regional Saturday performance definitely caught the eyes of many across the state. From what I saw he was more active than Hammons has been and he prefers to go up strong through contact rather than fade away. At 6'11" 290 before he even gets to college no one is going to be able to move him.
There were a lot of good Division I players at Marion that day with Beachem, Tayler Persons, Zach McRoberts, Michael Volovic, Bryson and Brenton Scott, etc. he was by far the best on the floor. He never took plays off and was the reason New Haven beat Northrop and seriously scared Carmel in the nightcap. He is definitely worth Purdue going after and since he has very little known about him Purdue can get in early.