Ex-Havoc Jevon Estelle has earned the cheers

Story by Rick Vacek
Photos by Darryl Webb
GCU News Bureau

Jevon Estelle just wants to say thank you.

A lot more people at Grand Canyon University want to thank him even more. He hasn’t played a lot of minutes (just 109 in 29 games spread over three seasons), but there’s a reason why the Havocs student cheering section goes a little nutty every time Estelle simply sets foot on the court.

He once was one of them. He once was a Havoc.

And there’s another reason why he has earned equally voluminous cheers from his teammates and coaches and even was one of the captains of the team this season despite his limited role: He has the heart of a warrior and carries himself with class on and off the court. He’s a leader.

In its own unique way, it has been one of the more memorable careers in GCU basketball history, but Estelle’s time as a collegiate player will end sometime this month — however long the Lopes play in the CollegeInsider.com tournament, which begins Monday night at GCU Arena. He said that makes him feel sad, but only because he has so many happy memories.

Hard-core Havoc

Four years ago, back when the Havocs were just a small group of students who wanted to bring their unique spirit to the Arena, Estelle was one of the guys taking off his shirt and painting his body to rally support for the team.

“He was a really, really good Havoc,” said Brennan Williams, who handles marketing for the Havocs now that they have become nationally known and fill up almost half the Arena. “There couldn’t have been more than 20 who were really consistent and really that excited about basketball at that time. He definitely played a large role in being bold, and it’s turned into what it is now because of people like him.”

But as new head coach Dan Majerle was preparing for GCU’s first year of the transition from NCAA Division II to Division I, Estelle tried out for the Lopes even though he wasn’t a serious basketball player at Winslow High School. Sure, he played, but he came to GCU intending to play first base for the baseball team.

When that didn’t work out, he started playing pickup basketball and met Kyle Speed, who played for GCU from 2010 to 2012. Speed encouraged him to aim higher than just pickup games at the Rec Center, and Estelle decided he was up to the challenge of Division I hoops.

“With a lot of prayer and determination, I felt like it was something I could achieve,” he said. “When coach Majerle gave me my opportunity, I just tried to do my best to run with it.”

Example for teammates

Estelle even got some significant playing time in his first season — he scored five points in 11 minutes at Tennessee-Chattanooga and seven points on 3-of-3 shooting in 17 minutes at New Mexico State — and was a regularly used reserve for much of the season when injuries and suspensions left the team short-handed. And even as Majerle continued to bring in more big-name recruits for Estelle's final two seasons, usually leaving the 6-foot-3 forward on the bench for all but the closing minutes of a lopsided game if he got in at all, Jevon continued to earn respect in other ways.

Ask his teammates what they think of him, and the compliments come as fast and furious as he does.

Ryan Majerle: “Man of the people, baby.”

Gerard Martin: “The kid’s got a lot of heart.”

Matt Jackson: “Unlimited energy.”

They were awed by the time Estelle injured his right elbow in practice, got it taped up and continued to play. His only concession to the pain: He became a left-handed shooter for a week and a half.

“He’s a guy who gives 100 percent every day, the little stuff that you don’t notice until he’s gone,” Ryan Majerle said. “Jevon was sick from practice one day and we were saying, ‘Why is it so quiet here?’ Even if it’s a warmup drill, he’s yelling, talking to guys, telling them where they should be. He’s amazing with communication.”

And that’s something his coach appreciates.

“He’s just a great kid around campus — everybody loves him. Just a perfect kid to have on the team. If you had a lot of Jevons, it would be a lot of fun.”

Head coach Dan Majerle

“He was our best practice player — he came in every day, never complained,” Dan Majerle said. “He ran our scout team, brought a lot of energy and enthusiasm, and has the mentality and the culture that we want here. He’s been here the longest, and he portrays that every day.

“He’s just a great kid around campus — everybody loves him. Just a perfect kid to have on the team. If you had a lot of Jevons, it would be a lot of fun.”

That’s why the coach made him a captain.

“It was a huge honor,” Estelle said. “I was not expecting it at all. I thought it would go to someone who actually would play more, but by being captain I was able to express myself in the weight room, get people to push themselves past their limit. We all did it together as a unit.”

Thanks for the memories

Estelle plans to earn his master’s degree in Business Administration by December and said he hopes to start a nonprofit that helps needy basketball players get to basketball camps and then gives them tutoring help while they’re there. “After going through what I went through, working that hard to get where I’ve been, I know it’s much easier if you have someone to help you,” he said.

But he will leave with great memories, including getting to start last month against Chicago State on Senior Night, in the final home game of the regular season.

“This is one of the best things I’ve done in my life,” he said. “I’ve gotten a chance to travel the world thanks to this. I went to Italy, went to Greece, got a chance to play at places such as Rupp Arena, Indiana, San Diego State, compete at a high level in that tournament in Las Vegas and win that, and I had a great coaching staff and got to meet other great people — Mr. (Brian) Mueller (GCU’s president), Mr. (Jerry) Colangelo. It’s been a phenomenal experience.”

But maybe it takes another Havoc to put Estelle’s experience into proper perspective.

“He sums up GCU as a whole — very hard-working, came from just being a regular student, saw his goal, worked his butt off to get to the goal and he made it,” Williams said. “I think we all, as fellow students, really can get behind someone like that, someone who’s really worked hard.

“You can see it on the court, too, when he comes in. He always brings that constant energy, and when he comes in there’s just that different buzz.”

There’s only one way to say it: Thank you. This is what college athletics should be all about.

Contact Rick Vacek at (602) 639-8203 or [email protected].


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Bible Verse

(Job declared,) "Therefore I will not keep silent; I will speak out in the anguish of my spirit, I will complain in the bitterness of my soul." (Job 7:11)

To Read More: www.verseoftheday.com/