Riordan manager Dominic Stevens’ iconic journey to the court

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Steven Rissotto '20

Team manager Dominic Stevens '20 paused for a photo before the big game.

By Steven Rissotto ‘20, ARCHBISHOP RIORDAN HIGH SCHOOL

It was well anticipated that Dominic Stevens ’20 was going to make an appearance on Tuesday’s basketball senior night. He always does, the only difference is that he had the opportunity to suit up as a player for the first time in his high school career. That means quickly swapping his khakis for a jersey.

For the better part of four years, he’s served as the team manager for basketball and football, where he helped with water, the training staff and everything in-between. It was a whirlwind for Stevens, who made a bet with Riordan’s head coach Joey Curtin five weeks ago that he would get in shape just in time for the game. During that time, he worked every day after school with strength and conditioning coach Ryan Jones ’08 to get stronger and create a goal to strive for. It wasn’t easy for Stevens. After all, his only other athletic experience at Riordan is golf, which includes less physical demand. Basketball’s nonstop movement presents a completely different animal.

“The first week I was dying,” Stevens told The Crusader. “But every other week after that I got used to it.”

Jones started the movement earlier than anyone and started posting clips of Stevens working out on his Instagram page. Titled “DSteves Chronicles”, students started to become familiar with the features and figured out quite fast what was going on. It might have been a far fetched idea for some, but Stevens had a feeling hard work wouldn’t let him down. Jones, meanwhile, quickly became his biggest fan.

“We did a lot of cardio and fundamental work to try and get him as ready as possible,” Jones said. “I’m 100 percent in the ‘dsteves’ fan club.”

Fast forward to the game itself: 2:00 left  and Stevens had his promise sealed. All he had to do was wait for the chance and with 1:58 left, Curtin made the move. All game long, the Crusaders student section was ready for the event and even had decent-size posters of him printed out. Once he took a knee by the scorer’s table, the crowd went into a frenzy. It was almost as if Michael Jordan himself walked right onto the court.

Riordan, in a tough three-team fight for first place in the West Catholic Athletic League, was leading Sacred Heart Cathedral by almost 30 points, which created the leverage for Curtain to pull the trigger that was in jeopardy of becoming stale if the Crusaders’ lead was thinner.

After an airball on a corner three-attempt, Stevens rebounded by sinking a Dominic Wilson ’20 pass from downtown. It was an unforgettable moment in Riordan Athletics history. The student section, located on the court, didn’t have a clue what to do. Hugs were flying, shirts were derailed from bodies, and adult faculty had trouble holding everyone back from charging the court. It was pure emotion led by pure chaos. The result was a technical foul against Riordan, but students and players will tell you it was well worth it.

Athletic Director Bob Greene was behind the microphone broadcasting the game for a YouTube stream. Out of madness, he stated, “That was one of the most unique things I have ever seen!”

It wasn’t even seconds later he sunk another three from the opposite corner, which confirmed that a fluke wasn’t in any question. The final seconds of the game were a picture-perfect moment with Stevens staying motionless with the basketball in his hands waiting for the clock to dwindle down. When the Crusaders finally won the game by a blowout score of 92-69 against Sacred Heart, the student section finally charged the court without any consequences. Without any worry about the technical foul, the MVP chants echoed through the walls and rang down on Kevin Restani Court. Sure, Riordan clinched a first-place finish in WCAL, but Stevens was the hero for the night and there were no ands, ifs, or buts about it.

The social media impact the “team manager shines in a game” theme had was felt right off the bat. Stevens started off the night with just over 700 Instagram followers and currently sits just over 1,300. Some may say he’s become somewhat of a local celebrity. Videos and photos from every angle filled up the web and it carried over to Wednesday morning when he was featured on Sports Center and Bleacher Report. The hallways were filled with MVP chants wherever he would wind up, which caused an uproar of smiles with the largest one on his face.

In addition, the story was also featured on 95.7 the Game with Joe Shasky and you can click here to listen to that bit.

Jones said, “I’m proud of the kid. It’s only that much more rewarding that people do know his story now.”

Just a couple of months ago, nobody knew Dominic Stevens. They were aware of his presence and his role on the team but they didn’t understand the impact this opportunity had on him personally. It was simply a clinic on sportsmanship and the effect of a support system that fails to abandon those close to them. An avid sports fan, Stevens couldn’t have dreamed of anything more storybook ending. Most kids dream of ending up on ESPN and listening to their famous music whenever a great play would come on. He didn’t need to dream about it happening anymore. For this San Francisco high schooler, it was real and actually happened. And it happened in a big way.

“It’s crazy,” Stevens told The Crusader. “It’s a dream come true.”

This story was originally published on The Crusader on February 19, 2020.