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Friday, March 23, 2018

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DCHS' Steinbron sets sights on greater heights

By Eric Killelea

Ranger-Review Staff Writer

In Glendive, before each game of the Dawson County High School basketball season, Stephen Steinbron plays “Hurley Shooting,” a sort of warm up game that helps him and his teammates focus on the competition ahead. Steinbron puts his earbuds in and listens to Beyonce’s song, “Halo.” “It gets me going,” he reasoned. He then gets “hyped” with his teammates, now friends, who blast “hip hop and rock music” in the locker room. One of his best friends, Robert Keiser, leads the boys in the Lord’s Prayer. Then back on the court, an announcer calls the starting lineup and Steinbron meets Keiser for their pre-game handshake.

The Red Devils are an excitable bunch. Hard working and talented. But, despite their efforts, they have struggled early this season and now have a 1-6 record. Steinbron knows there’s potential in his teammates and has goals of them competing well in the upcoming Divisional tournament. 

“We’re off to a slow start, but I think we’ll pick it up,” Steinbron said. “We’re a close team that has to knock down more shots and be more aggressive and trust each other as a team.”

Growing up in northwest Iowa, Steinbron never imagined himself as a high school basketball star. His parents encouraged him to play sports at a young age. Pastor David and nurse Renee raised their son and his six younger siblings — four of them adopted — in a “small, farm town” called Hinton. 

“They had to pressure me to play basketball,” Steinbron said. In middle school, he was a “tall, chunky kid” — wearing size 14 shoes — who “could barely walk up and down the court.” Steinbron tried wrestling, because that’s what kids do in Iowa. But he found himself better suited for basketball and ended up playing his freshman year of high school in a “small, factory town” named Oskaloosa. “The high school players were definitely faster and stronger,” Steinbron said. “I was scared to play and be taken out of the game, but then I started maturing and playing to my potential.”

In the fall of 2016, Steinbron moved to Glendive ahead of his family, so he could begin practicing with the DCHS team. His father David had landed a job at the Evangelical Church and would bring the rest of the family here that December. Steinbron tried out for the Red Devils varsity team and filled in a much needed post spot. Did he think there were differences between basketball in Iowa and Montana? “It’s more fundamental in Iowa, but they move the ball faster up and down the court in Montana,” Steinbron said. He added: “There’s a difference in size, too. I’m not the tallest in Iowa, where lots of players have skinny arms and bones and can jump out of the roof. But the Montana athletes are pretty darn strong.”

Last year, the DCHS team finished 4-15 after losing a divisional game in overtime. Regardless, Steinbron shined in scoring 29 points and had 11 rebounds. He would receive second team All-Conference recognition for his prowess. He went on to throw the discus, shot put and javelin on the track and field team that spring, and then made the Northwest Cougars Basketball Team during the summer and competed against top athletes across the country in Las Vegas. “Playing in those tournaments improved my shooting and showed me that I needed to become faster and stronger to pick up the pace,” Steinbron said. He returned home and played defensive end on the football squad, which helped him develop a mixture of aggression and poise. 

Now, Steinbron stands 6’5”, 225 pounds, the tallest player on his team and wearing size 16 shoes. The 17-year-old junior center has already proved himself as one of the most versatile this season by averaging 13.3 points and 9 rebounds per game.

Personally, Steinbron, who wears No. 40, wants to earn All-Conference and All-State accolades this season. He also wants to play in college. But he knows that he needs to trust in his coach and teammates in order to succeed, for “basketball is not a one man show.” Head coach Wade Murphy “is always tough when he needs to be and always cool when he needs to be,” Steinbron said. “And it’s good having my friends Robby and Lane [Walker] on the team. I think we’re always on the same page. We can connect with our eyes and know what we mean. We make each other better.”

Steinbron’s favorite athlete is Russell Westbrook, one of the most athletic players in the N.B.A. “He’s an animal,” Steinbron said. “He can dunk on anyone in the league.” Russell is known for his explosion on the court, his pull-up jumper and his attacks on the basket. In the beginning on the season, Murphy said that Steinbron “plays the rim very well and has the ability to step outside and hit the mid-range jump shots.” Earlier this week, Steinbron showed off his talent by scoring 17 points against Wolf Point and now plans to keep the newfound pace against Billings Central on Friday and Laurel on Saturday (varisty plays at 2 p.m.).

Reach Eric Killelea at rrsports@rangerreview.com.

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