August 27, 2003

Cornell Center Bounces Back From Brutal Attack

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Junior Gabe Stephenson is doing well now after being attacked June 29 while attempting to diffuse a confrontation in his hometown of Denver. Stephenson, a center on the men’s basketball team, was with friends in downtown Denver when the incident occurred.

“I tried to get everybody to relax, and I talked to the guys for about five minutes, and I thought I had gotten everybody relaxed,” he recalled. “I turned around to walk away, and a guy came up and tackled me from behind. My head hit the ground and I got knocked out right away.”

The assailant proceeded to slam Stephenson’s head to the ground repeatedly before the junior’s friends intervened. In all, Stephenson sustained a concussion, a broken nose, a broken arm, and received 50 stitches in his lip. All of these injuries have since healed completely.

Men’s basketball head coach Steve Donahue, who was made aware of the incident shortly afterwards, expressed relief at the relative insignificance of Stephenson’s injuries.

“I think he’s very lucky that it wasn’t worse,” Donahue remarked. “I believe it was just a wrong place at the wrong time kind of thing. I don’t think he was doing anything wrong in that situation.”

Stephenson, who missed significant portions of both his freshman and sophomore seasons due to various injuries, is expected to be at full strength once practice begins. He will also be at full strength once the season begins in late November, providing size in the front court the Red has severely lacked over the past few years.

In 21 games last year, Stephenson averaged 2.3 points and 2.0 rebounds per game. Still recovering from an off-season back injury, Stephenson averaged only 11.6 minutes per game. His most important impact, however, was to take much of the pressure off his classmate, starting center Eric Taylor. Due in part to Stephenson’s return to Donahue’s rotation off the bench in January, Taylor was able to avoid a mid-season slump.

Additionally, Stephenson has learned from this experience to be more vigilant with his safety.

“Anything can happen at anytime,” he said. “I am now a lot more careful, a lot more aware of what’s going on around me all the time.”

Archived article by Owen Bochner