In terms of scoring, Erik Stenger's Xavier career peaked as soon as it started, with his 12 point outburst in the first game of the 2012-2013 season being the only time he ever cracked double figures in a Musketeers uniform. However, that doesn't even begin to tell the story of the guy who lived every walk-on's dream and worked he was into a full ride scholarship.
Following his transfer from Northern Kentucky University in the Summer of 2011 for mostly post-college reasons, Stenger walked on with Xavier, working out, practicing, and training with the team for the entirety of his NCAA mandated year off, all while paying for school himself. All that would change immediately prior to the 2012-2013 season, as Xavier's coaching staff rewarded his hard work and intensity in practices with a full ride offer for the year. Stenger has rewarded them back every time he has pulled on the Xavier uniform since then, defining his play with hustle, defensive focus, and refusal to give anything but his absolute best effort every time he is on the court.
1.5/1.8/.1 on .540/.000/.356 shooting.
Although Stenger never was one to light up the Cintas Center scoreboard, there were facets of his game that were extremely useful to the Musketeers, most notably his rebounding. Despite his limited playing time preventing him from being a statistical qualifier, Stenger's rebounding rates his Junior year were an eye-popping 14.7% on offense and 16.5% on defense, a testament to the sheer effort the 6'8" forward put into getting to the glass. He ripped down 8 boards and scored 6 points in 20 minutes as part of a losing effort to Tennessee, and put up 5 boards in 10 minutes in a late season win over Memphis, but Stenger was establishing himself as a player whose value could be seen outside of his numbers, but in the way his style and ferocity of play boosted his team.
Stenger came into his senior year as part of the starting lineup for 3 of the first 4 games, and once again took it to Tennessee (a Sweet 16 team) with 7/6/0 with a block and a steal thrown in, helping trigger a huge early season win for Xavier. However, sickness limited him to just 3 minutes of gametime between November 20th and January 4th, taking with it a large chunk of Erik's senior season. He would score 7 points the rest of the way, while pulling down 16 boards, but the true testament to his work ethic and importance to the squad was the fact that he would start 5 straight games following an early February blowout loss to Villianova. With his team struggling to find a stop, and needing to step up its defensive intensity, Chris Mack knew just where to look for his leader. Stenger's last career point came in the Big East Tournament loss to Creighton, but he bowed out fulfilling every walk-on's dream: suiting up as a scholarship athlete on the biggest stage of all. No one will ever be able to take the one minute he logged against NC State away from Stenger. Even fewer can say he didn't earn it.