MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – From Washington to West Virginia, things have come full circle for Emmitt Matthews Jr. and Erik Stevenson.
They grew up about 30 minutes away from each other. Their paths first cross elementary school and then they became teammates through high school.
Matthews went to Woodrow Wilson High and Stevenson was at Timberline, but they played on the same AAU team during that span.
When it was time to take their careers to the next level, they went their separate ways. Matthews came to WVU while Stevenson headed to Wichita State.
There was a pit stop or two after that, but they found their way back to the same team to finish their collegiate careers.
“That’s been my guy. The journey is crazy. You never know where you are going to go or who you are going to run into, let alone who you are going to play with,” Matthews said. “All that way to now, fifth year of college and you are playing with a kid you’ve been playing with your whole entire life.”
Their college careers may have taken them on different paths, but their journeys are anything but.
Matthews started as Mountaineer and then transferred home to play at Washington for one season before making his return to the University City.
Stevenson played two seasons for the Shockers before he decided to head back to Washington. After one season, he transferred to South Carolina. He found himself back in the portal after SC head coach Frank Martin was fired, leading him to WVU.
“We have a lot of things in common. We left home, came back, didn’t like it, then left home again,” Stevenson said. “We talked a bunch. Especially after Frank got fired. I talked to the staff here and next thing I knew I was on a plane coming here for an official visit.”
When he was in the portal, Stevenson said it wasn’t even Huggins that approached him about coming to WVU.
“It was a lot of Emmitt,” he said.
Of course, he did have talks with the coaching staff, but maybe not as much as he had with his childhood teammate.
Stevenson said as they are now older, mature players, he didn’t need to pitch himself to Matthews. Matthews didn’t need a recruiting pitch either — the opportunity to play for Bob Huggins alongside someone he grew up with was enough.
“I was going to come here regardless. That’s how much I liked it and enjoyed my official visit,” Stevenson said. “That’s how much I believe in Huggs and what he was telling me.”
Matthews wanted to come back to WVU for a number of reasons, but experiencing senior night in the Coliseum and walking at graduation with his younger sister were at the top of the list.
Now, he has one more opportunity – finishing his college career alongside someone who was there at the start.
“We have a photo from high school we did in our senior year, a little corny photo shoot where we are palming the ball standing next to each other,” Matthews said. “We recreated that picture and we were able to do that in our fifth year of college. We make jokes all the time like man, we are getting old. You just cherish those little moments through life you had with them and we hang out all the time to this day. I just love it, it’s pretty fun.”