Did Roy Williams Help DeShawn Stevenson Improve His SAT Score by 700 Points in 2000?


There have been at least a dozen terrific reads this week on Jerry Tarkianian, the legendary college basketball coach who recently passed away at the age of 84. There’s something about a section from this column, from John Canzano at the Oregonian, that I absolutely love (and not just because of my feelings about Roy Williams):

"Take ex-NBA player DeShawn Stevenson, for example. Stevenson was a gifted high school player from Fresno who Roy Williams, then coach at Kansas, coveted. Trouble was, Stevenson was struggling to post an SAT score that would make him eligible as a freshman. His best score: 450. Williams was worried sick. In a last-ditch attempt Stevenson flew across country and re-tested. His new SAT score: 1150. “Someone oughta tell Roy Williams that kid should forget basketball,” Tarkanian said, recounting the story. “That kid’s a Rhodes Scholar.” The test score was nullified. Stevenson was drafted by the Jazz in the first round. Tarkanian just shook his head at the whole thing."

There’s so much here to take in, let’s break it down:

Williams was at Kansas at the time. But it’d have been far too obvious for Stevenson to take the SAT test there. But guess what? There was a high school basketball All-Star game in Raleigh in April of 2000, so let’s have Stevenson take the test there! It was Stevenson’s last shot to get a qualifying score. As the story goes, Stevenson’s test score improved significantly. Third time’s a charm!

Stevenson’s mom told the Journal-World in 2000:

"“I’ve heard DeShawn improved 400 points. The preliminary review said he’s passed the test,” Stevenson’s mother, Genice Popps, said Sunday."

She meant to say his score increased by 700 points. For a minute when the test score counted, Stevenson said he was going to play at Kansas. Hmmmm. Who had more incentive for that test score to go up, the Jayhawks or Stevenson? There’s only one right answer. When the score was nullified, Stevenson went to the NBA, was a 1st round draft pick (23rd overall) and signed a deal worth more than $4 million.

[Aside: College basketball players producing awesome SAT scores out of thin air is nothing new. Remember Robert Dozier, the Memphis forward? Calipari landed him when Dozier scored a 1260 on the SAT. Nice job! According to this story, Dozier scored in the 4th percentile (that’s out of 100) on a prior test, and was a C- student in high school. So 1260 was fishy. Maybe Dozier just tested well? Nope. He had to take the test again and scored 540 points lower.]

Anyway, DeShawn Stevenson. What a player in high school. What an eccentric individual. The man has Abe Lincoln (?) tattooed on his throat, and he’s got an ATM in his blasted kitchen. His beef with LeBron is one of my favorite NBA beefs of the last 30 years.

And Roy Williams?

Nothing else needs to be said.

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