Quaker Valley grad continues recovery in PBC Pro-Am League

Nathan Smith
| Tuesday, July 2, 2013, 9:00 p.m.

Ben Stevenson may not be the most well known player at the Pittsburgh Basketball Club's Summer Pro-Am League.

He may not be the biggest, strongest or fastest.

But what he may have is the most determination.

The Quaker Valley grad wrapped up his redshirt freshman season at Guilford College in North Carolina and is using the summer league playing against athletes from Pitt, Duquesne and Robert Morris to improve his game.

Stevenson is grateful to be taking part in the event after returning from a surgery that repaired a leg injury that plagued him most of his playing career.

“It feels great,” Stevenson said on returning to the court. “I got so bored during my recovery, playing video games and watching other people play basketball. It seemed like everyone wrote me off. The whole time I was thinking I can't wait to play again.”

Stevenson suffered from osteochondritis dissecans throughout his high school career. The condition was caused from four bones from his left femur breaking off, leaving Stevenson in constant discomfort.

In 10th grade, he had a surgery to relieve the pain as doctors drilled holes into his femur to combat the condition, but it did little to improve his pain.

“His work ethic is hard to match,” Quaker Valley boys basketball coach Mike Mastroianni said. “He had a terrific senior year for us, and he basically played on one knee. He never made an excuse. He has all the intangibles of a winner.”

But when he entered college, the pain started to become too much to bare. Stevenson and his mother flew to La Jolla, Calif. in October 2011 to speak with a specialist and he was put on a waiting list for the procedure. On Dec. 23 of that year, he had the surgery that merged part of an organ donor's femur with his own.

What followed was a long recovery phase that included two months without lifting anything. He was kept off the court for six months while he went through a grueling rehab.

“The rehab was so bad,” Stevenson said. “From Day 1 they had me moving my knee when my leg was still huge. I had to go through all kind of movements.

“I am actually still rehabbing.”

While there was a chance the surgery could have ended his playing career, the idea of not playing basketball again never crossed Stevenson's mind.

“I am never going to think I am not going to play again,” Stevenson said.

“They don't want to tell you that you might not be able to play again, but they will think it. If someone says you can't do something, you have to prove them wrong.”

When Stevenson was cleared to play, he set goals for what he wanted to accomplish during his redshirt freshman season. First and foremost was making the school's varsity team.

“At Guilford, there is a varsity and junior varsity team,” Stevenson said. “I told myself I didn't come to college to play junior varsity. In the first scrimmage of the year, I was the first guy off the bench, and I really surprised myself.”

That was a beginning of a season that saw Stevenson come off the bench to average 2.6 points and 1.4 rebounds in 21 games.

“He has made great strides coming back from a difficult injury,” Guilford coach Tom Palombo said. “He has the ability to excel at Guilford.”

Stevenson will use the rest of the Pro-Am schedule to continue to improve. The league runs Mondays and Wednesdays through July 24 at the Green Tree Sportsplex.

At the end of the summer, Stevenson hopes to be able to return to Guilford and compete for a starting spot.

“The goal of every player is to be in the starting lineup and be on a team that has five guys or 10 guys who play really well together,” Stevenson said. “My goals going into next year will be higher than this year. I really want to start and play more minutes. That is going to be the goals.”

Nathan Smith is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at nsmith@tribweb.com or via Twitter @NSmith_Trib.

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