Farewell to a hoops legend

Published 4:17 pm Thursday, December 6, 2018

Many Dallas County residents consider former Southside High School guard Rodney Stevens as the greatest basketball player Dallas County has produced.

Stevens died Tuesday at the age of 51. Funeral services will be held at noon Saturday at St. Paul Community Methodist Church in Selma. The cause of death is unknown for Stevens, a Montgomery resident. Stevens leaves behind his wife, Lillian, their two daughters, Chasity and Amber and a grandchild.

As a junior, Stevens led Southside to the Class 5A state basketball championship during the 1984-85 season. The Panthers beat Hayes 58-56 in the 5A finals. During the title season, Stevens had three 50-point games.

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Mickey Tyree, a member of Southside’s state title team, said Stevens’ talent and leadership made him a legend.

“Rodney was the best player I ever saw,” Tyree said. “He was a humble player who wanted to win. He was a leader on the floor. If you made a mistake, he didn’t beat you down over it.”

The next year, Southside narrowly missed out on repeating as 5A state champions, falling to Eufaula 57-56 in the state finals. Despite the loss, Stevens was named 5A state player of the year. He averaged 28 points and 12 rebounds a game as a senior.

At Southside’s 25-year reunion on Jan. 13, 2010, Stevens told The Selma Times-Journal that the Panthers should’ve won more state titles during his career.

“My sophomore year in 1983-84, we were a better team talent-wise, but we had a lot more heart and desire during the 1984-85 season,” Stevens said. “The 1983-84 team was the best of my high school career, but we ran into a good Keith team. The 1985-86 team didn’t have enough desire to win.”

Anthony Sewell was a junior high teammate of Stevens and is still impressed at his remarkable shooting touch. He’s currently an assistant basketball coach at Alabama State University.

“Without a doubt, he was the best to come through Selma,” Sewell said. “He could shoot a basketball and score. At 6-foot-5, he had range and high elevation on his shot. Everyone knew Rodney was coming and he still scored.”

Timfreit Drane, who was Southside’s statistician when Stevens played, agrees with Sewell.

“Rodney had the best jump shot I ever seen in my life,” Drane said. “It was amazing. He’s the best to come out of Selma.”

After high school, Stevens originally signed with Auburn in 1986, but never played for the Tigers. He played at Troy University, then left to work at a sewing factory in Dallas County. He eventually played at Lawson State Community College in Birmingham, averaging over 30 points a game.

After a year at Lawson State, Drane said Stevens had scholarship offers to play at Southern Cal and UCLA, but chose to work at International Paper and take care of his family.

Tammy Dubley, Stevens’ first cousin, said she remembers Stevens as a devoted family man.

“Rodney chose family first and he was always big on responsibility,” Dubley said.  “Growing up, he never had a harsh word for anybody. He was just a good guy.”