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With Mom in Mind: China Spring senior reaches goal of playing D-I basketball

Published: Jan. 21, 2021 at 10:48 PM CST
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WACO, Texas (KWTX) - A senior from China Spring High School has an opportunity to play Division I basketball next year, but the road to his success hasn’t been easy.

Eli Stephens is absolutely electric on the basketball court for the China Spring cougars. He’s had a lifelong goal of playing college basketball at the highest level, and now he’s lined up to do so.

He said it took a lot of hard work, and some of his motivation came from his mom.

In 2016, when Eli was thirteen years old, his mom died in a car accident.

“It was very hard because I was a mama’s boy and I would always like to be around her and it was hard when we just lost her,” said Eli.

At that age, Eli had already fallen in love with basketball and used this tragedy as fuel.

“It honestly made me work harder and put forth the effort to just impress her since she’s not here to see,” explained Eli.

At just 5′8″ becoming an elite hooper took a lot of work, but Eli did it.

In November, he signed to play at American University in Washington D.C.

“I haven’t tracked how many guards under 6 feet have a D-I scholarship but it’s probably less than on one hand,” said China Spring head coach Philip McCaslin.

As the head coach at China Spring, Philip McCaslin has a front-row ticket to how special Eli is.

“We have to practice Eli things in terms of how we react when Eli just starts doing Eli things that I don’t coach,” said Coach McCaslin.

Eli learned some of those things, playing in the backyard with his older brother who currently plays college basketball at Concordia.

“We used to have a hoop at the house, so it was a big influence,” said Eli.

Eli hopes you see a few things when you watch him play. “How hard I work, how hard I get after it, how hard I want to win.”

While you’re watching him, Eli thinks about his mom doing the same.

“Good stuff and bad stuff because she was always like keep your head up and stuff like that.”

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