Barry Stevens’ impact on Iowa State men’s basketball from 1982-85 cannot be fully measured. Stevens was the key ingredient in Iowa State’s and Johnny Orr’s resurgence on the collegiate basketball scene. Stevens’ fast-paced, smooth-shooting style was a perfect fit in Orr’s exciting up-tempo offense, turning a dormant basketball program into an annual NCAA Tournament contender.
Stevens’ numbers and honors tell the story of his impact on the ISU basketball program. The Flint, Mich., native earned first-team all-Big Eight honors in his final two seasons, one of 13 Cyclone hoopsters in school history to earn first-team all-league kudos twice in a career. He ended his career in 1985 as Iowa State’s all-time leading scorer, becoming the first Cyclone to reach 2,000 points (2,190) in a career. Averaging 18.7 ppg in his four years at Iowa State, Stevens currently ranks No. 2 on the ISU all-time scoring list behind Jeff Grayer, his teammate at Flint Northwestern High School.
The 6-5 swingman showed Cyclone fans a glimpse of his greatness as a sophomore in 1983, averaging 16.5 ppg. His 40-point performance to help ISU upset No. 10 Missouri in Ames in 1983 was considered a watershed moment in Cyclone history. Stevens nailed a jumper from the top of the key at the buzzer to secure the Cyclone victory and was later named Sports Illustrated national player of the week for his efforts.
Stevens continued to improve as a junior in 1984, averaging 22.2 ppg en route to first-team all-Big Eight honors. Stevens led ISU to a 16-13 mark, its first winning record since 1978, and to an NIT berth, ISU’s first postseason appearance in 40 years. The gradual improvement of Stevens and the Cyclones came full circle in his senior year in 1985. Stevens, who averaged 21.7 ppg in his final campaign, paced ISU to a then-school record 21 wins, earning a spot in the NCAA Tournament, ISU’s first NCAA berth since 1944. ISU also advanced to the championship game of the Big Eight Tournament, as Stevens earned all-tournament honors.
Stevens’ quickness and uncanny long-range shooting ability enabled him to break virtually every school scoring record. Besides becoming the school’s all-time leading scorer, his 739 points broke the single-season record (it now ranks third) and he established the single-game scoring mark (now the second-best) by pouring in 47 points vs. Morgan State. He is the only Cyclone in school history to record two 40-point games.
After his brilliant career ended, Stevens was named ISU Athlete of the Year and was selected in the second round of the 1985 NBA draft by the Denver Nuggets. After being one of the last players cut by the Nuggets, Stevens bounced around the Continental Basketball Association (CBA) for a number of years. In 1993, Stevens was signed to a 10-day contract by the Golden State Warriors, becoming one of 13 Cyclones to don an NBA uniform. He later was a head coach in the CBA.
Stevens passed away suddenly in Feb. 2007, at the age of 43 after a heart attack.