McElvene was a redshirt freshman center for the Dayton Flyers, an Atlantic 10 program that reached March Madness in 2016. Although Dayton didn’t last long in the tournament, there was reason to believe McElvene would be back soon given Dayton’s history of postseason play.
Dayton returned to the Big Dance in the spring of 2017, but they did it without McElvene, who tragically died only weeks after the 2016 tournament ended.
Steve McElvene impressed while at Dayton
Standing 6 feet 11 inches and weighing 260 pounds, Steve McElvene arrived at Dayton as the literal big man on campus.
In 32 games and 17 starts during the 2015-16 season, McElvene averaged 6.1 points and 5.6 rebounds in 18.4 minutes per night. McElvene added 1.7 blocks per night — his 55 on the season set a school record — and even had a six-block game in a win over Saint Louis.
McElvene, who played that year as a redshirt freshman, opened the season as the starting center, averaging 6.9 points and 7.1 rebounds in 21 minutes a night. Dayton brought McElvene off the bench for the season’s final games, however.
Other highlights of McElvene’s freshman season included a 14-point, 16-rebound, four-block game in a win over North Florida. McElvene had three double-doubles on a Flyers team that went 25-8 and reached the NCAA Tournament.
Dayton reached the 2016 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament
Archie Miller made winning look easy in his six seasons at Dayton.
In his final four seasons with the Flyers from 2013-17, Dayton reached the NCAA Tournament every year and reached the Elite Eight in April 2014. The 2015-16 season was Miller’s penultimate in Dayton, and the Flyers went 25-8, winning 14 of their 18 in-conference games.
Dayton won an at-large bid and played Jim Boeheim’s Syracuse Orange in the NCAA Tournament’s first round. In 19 minutes off the bench, Steve McElvene scored six points and grabbed six rebounds.
Syracuse outscored Dayton, 40-23, in the second half en route to a 70-51 victory. The Orange made it all the way to the Final Four that spring.
Steve McElvene tragically died a few weeks after the tournament
Steve McElvene ended his first college basketball season on a Dayton team that was one of the final 64 teams left standing.
Tragically, his six-point, six-rebound performance on March 18, 2016, was McElvene’s final game. McElvene unexpectedly passed away on May 12 from an undiagnosed heart condition.
According to the Dayton Daily News, McElvene died from hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, a rare condition where the heart muscle becomes extremely thick.
JaVonna Layfield, a Dayton women’s basketball player, fondly remembered McElvene when she spoke with the Daily News.
“People will remember that smile. Oh, that smile. That laugh, just his personality, the person he was. You couldn’t miss him. He was the biggest person on campus. He made everyone around him better.”
McElvene reportedly signed up to become an organ donor shortly before he died. Dayton honored McElvene in January 2019, when they announced the team’s top defender would win the Steve McElvene Award.