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NEW HAVEN - New Haven senior V.J. Beachem is one of the most dynamic and versatile players in the state of Indiana.
But Beachem's ability to showcase his talents relies on assistance from his teammates, including one of the tallest players in the area – 6-foot-11 junior Steve McElvene.
“Having Steve (in the paint) just opens so much up for us and myself,” said Beachem on Tuesday. “He keeps getting better and better.”
On Friday night against Columbia City, McElvene continued to evolve into a steadier and stronger player than what he was at the start of the season. The 283-pound center finished with 16 points and 10 rebounds in New Haven's 69-54 victory over the Eagles.
The Bulldogs (9-4, 4-1 NHC) never trailed in the game and kept pace in the NHC just a game behind Homestead in the standings. The two teams face off next Saturday night at New Haven.
“He is getting stronger and is beginning to understand the game more,” New Haven Coach Al Gooden said about McElvene. “His conditioning needs some work but he is coming along.”
McElvene has made great strides since the beginning of the basketball season, crediting Gooden for pointing him in the right direction when it came to the weight room. Bench press and squats have become the focal point off the court as he tightens up his body and grows more stout, making it even more difficult for opposing teams to match up with him in the post.
“I am just trying to get into the weight room as much as I can,” McElvene said. “I am even working on little things like squeezing a ball to improve my grip so I can grip the basketball better.”
McElvene also showed improvement in his ability to avoid bad fouls on Friday night. Against Snider on Tuesday, the big man was relegated to the bench for long periods of time due to foul trouble, not so against Columbia City (14-3, 3-2 NHC).
McElvene turned heads in football while playing on the line for the Bulldogs, towering above teammates in the huddle. He is now doing the same with his play on the court.
“I am a basketball guy,” said McElvene when asked which sport he prefers. “Hopefully I can continue to grow and go to a good college like V.J. (who is going to Notre Dame).”
Interestingly enough, McElvene attended Summit Middle School before moving to Alabama for several years. If he was still in the same district, he would be a Spartan. Now, he prepares for a big showdown next Saturday against another talented big in freshman Caleb Swanigan.
“I think we are both good in certain spots,” McElvene said. “It should be fun.”
Columbia City 15 11 17 11-54
New Haven 21 13 17 18-69
Columbia City: Hinen 14, Benedict 20, Woll 12, Paul 8.
New Haven: Hogue 14, McElvene 16, Beachem 19, Stevenson 10, Ray 10.