A Tale of Two Steeves
Siblings Patrick and Erika Steeves are both enjoying successful collegiate careers, on and off the court
By Eric Detweiler, GW Athletics Communications
Erika Steeves makes an effort to keep her eyes out of the stands during Brown women's basketball games. No need for unnecessary distractions.
Yet the junior forward didn't mind the fan who caught her attention during warm-ups before the second half of a recent contest at Colgate. Or his three words of advice about her shot selection: "Stop fading away!"
It was her brother, Patrick. And he had a point.
"I knew it, too," Erika said with a laugh. "I was just like `Yeah, you're right.' Even little things like that have been helpful."
The occasional in-game adjustment is merely one perk of having a sibling in college basketball.
The Steeves make an impressive pair: Patrick is trying to close out his GW career in style as he works toward a master's degree in business analytics, while Erika is busy at Brown chasing an Ivy League title and a double major in International Relations and Social Analysis and Research.
Brother and sister agree that their close relationship helped put them on the path to success out of Montreal, Canada, both on the basketball court and in the classroom. Though time together now is rare, their bond remains important for navigating the demands of life as a Division I student-athlete.
"It's definitely very special to know that we've both achieved our goals at the highest level possible," said Patrick, who posted a season-high 23 points Wednesday to help the Colonials beat New Hampshire, 68-64. "It's kind of the top of the mountain for both of us."
As a 6-foot-7 forward, Murray Steeves trained with the Quebec provincial team and later moved on to play at Dalhousie University in Nova Scotia. He and his wife Andrée made sure their two children had a chance to play his sport of choice early but also encouraged them to try soccer, swimming, downhill skiing and more.
Born 15 month apart, Patrick and Erika caught the basketball bug, too, honing their skills at the local community center and the makeshift court in the alley behind their house.
"It's not like we felt like we had to play," Erika said. "It kind of just happened."
Patrick and Erika didn't go head-to-head too often. They preferred to team up for 2-on-2 and take on the rest of the neighborhood. Yet they naturally used each other as a measuring stick, which provided ready motivation to keep getting better.
"She may have always been a better free throw shooter than me," Patrick said with a smile. "Maybe."
"I'm a way better shooter," Erika confirmed. "You can quote me on that!"
The friendly competition carried over to the classroom, too. That was great news for a family that prized education.
"Patrick was always bringing home the A's and doing well on the classroom side of things, and Erika was anxious to keep up with her brother," Murray Steeves said. "That was the right kind of example there."
That recipe for well-rounded success carried both Steeves from French-speaking high schools in Canada to prep school in Connecticut to American college basketball.
"Looking back, (my parents) knew what they were doing," Patrick said. "You can't argue with the results."
Erika Steeves made the trip to Boston in 2015 for Patrick's third knee surgery in less than two years. It was considered a minor procedure to clean up scar tissue, but it felt like a last hope if he ever wanted to play Division I basketball again.
"I knew that mentally it was a really big one," Erika said. "I wanted to be there for him."
Patrick missed his first three seasons at Harvard due to injury -- first dealing with a broken foot and then with an ailing right knee that wouldn't heal quite right after a torn ACL.
During those dark days, Patrick appreciated having a fellow athlete in the family who always found the right words to keep his spirits up.
Erika had cried on the phone when Patrick delivered the news of his original knee injury, but she quickly realized it was her job to be positive and hopeful no matter how bleak things looked.
"There were a lot of times when I thought I was never going to play again," Patrick said. "I thought my knee was never going to be OK. So whenever I thought I might as well give up or quit or focus on something else, she was always there pushing me to keep going, saying `You never know what can happen.'"
For Erika, it was the least she could do. She remembered all the times her big brother had helped her along the way. From long afternoons shooting on the hoop in the alley to their time together at The Hotchkiss School to her postgrad year after a struggle proving herself as a Division I prospect to her decision to pick Brown.
"He's been, I think, instrumental in who I am, both as a person and as an athlete," Erika said. "No matter what, I've always had him to look up to."
When sifting through her college choices, Patrick told her she'd be foolish to turn down a chance to play in the Ivy League -- and most importantly, the prestigious education that came along with it. Those words were in her mind when she committed to the Bears.
"I always thought that she could do it," Patrick said. "There was never a doubt in my mind that she'd be able to. She's always had a great work ethic, and when she sets her mind to something, she usually gets what she wants."
This marks the third and final season with two Steeves in Division I basketball.
Erika was a freshman at Brown in 2015-2016 when Patrick finally proved healthy and got back on the court as a senior at Harvard.
Patrick's return was gratifying for all the Steeves, especially when NPR chronicled his perseverance under the headline "College Basketball's Greatest Comeback?"
"I remember I sent it to everybody," Erika said. "Everybody who knows me even a little bit probably read that. Because I was the proudest little sister ever."
It's been a little more difficult to keep tabs on each other since Patrick came to GW for graduate school in the summer of 2016, but they've remained committed to it.
Patrick has a subscription to the online Ivy League Network, so he can watch Erika play as much as possible. She'll often connect her computer to a hotel TV on road trips and invite teammates over to watch GW with her.
The siblings text each other good luck before every game and usually follow up with a call afterward. Almost always speaking French.
"When I'm here for a long time, I feel like I start to lose it a little bit, and I don't like that," Steeves said. "Every time we're on the phone and I feel us drifting towards English, I always try to bring it back to French."
Patrick keeps it positive but tries to find spots to give pointers when he can, while Erika encourages him to trust his outside shot, usually adding in a reminder to get a hair cut.
"Because that head band that he's trying to wear right now is not great," Erika joked.
So far, so good. The Steeves are both enjoying career years.
Patrick has started every game and ranks third among Colonials in scoring (10.3 ppg), rebounding (5.1 rpg) and minutes (30.4 mpg) and second in assists (2.5 apg). Those marks are all personal bests.
Erika, meantime, has helped Brown to a 9-1 start, averaging 10.7 points, 9.1 rebounds and 3.5 assists per game. The 6-foot-2 forward ranks second in the Ivy League in rebounding and sixth in assists.
Patrick had to get a little creative to get his first-hand look at Erika and the Bears.
After GW played at Penn State on Dec. 9, Patrick hopped in the car with his father and made the five-hour drive to Colgate. The next day, he dished out his halftime advice during Brown's 83-73 victory, chatted briefly with his sister afterward and then hopped back in the car for the seven-hour trip back to Foggy Bottom.
It made for a long weekend, to be sure, but Patrick wouldn't have had it any other way.
"We never get to see each other," Patrick said. "It's worth it, even just to see her for a few hours, you know?"
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