Isaiah Stevens breaks CSU’s 30-year career assist record

Colorado+State+guard+Isaiah+Stevens+waits+for+a+play+call+from+the+bench+Jan+21.

Collegian | Gregory James

Colorado State guard Isaiah Stevens waits for a play call from the bench Jan. 21. The Rams lost 58-57 to the Wyoming Cowboys to fall to 10-11 on the season

Braidon Nourse, Sports Editor

It was a goal from day one for Isaiah Stevens to break Colorado State University’s all-time career assist record of 530. That mark was set and held for nearly 30 years by Ryan Yoder, who played for the Rams from 1990-94, but Stevens surpassed it against the University of Wyoming this past Saturday.

The 530-assist mark was an ambitious target for the first-year point guard coming out of Allen, Texas, as in the past 30 years, nobody has come within 100 assists of Yoder’s historic number. But Stevens is as competitive as they come.

Ad

Rams head coach Niko Medved took Stevens to lunch in the fall of his first year at CSU to discuss what he had in mind for the young point guard. From the jump, Medved wanted Stevens to be CSU’s long-term starting point guard, a role that he gladly took and flourished in over the last 3 1/2 seasons on the way to becoming the Rams’ ultimate team-first player. With his spot on the team established, Stevens took it upon himself to work toward beating the assist record.

“You never really know how the scoring translates, and defense takes a little bit of adjustment at the college level from high school,” Stevens said. “But I always felt like passing was an ability that I could translate right away to the college level.”

And translate to the college level, he did. During his freshman season, Stevens averaged 4.5 assists per game, fifth among all first-years in the country, and amassed 144 total assists along the way. It was a pretty substantial chunk of the record, but there was still a long way to go.

“I really believed he had a chance to be a special player, and to see that play out over the course of time has been really cool,” Medved said. “It’s not just about being a great player, but it’s also the longevity, the durability, the playing at a high level, and he’s really been able to do that.”

The prospect of finally achieving the longtime goal became a little more real for Stevens after the conclusion of last year’s historic season in which the Rams qualified for the March Madness tournament as a program-record No. 6-seed. By the end of the season, he’d tallied 443 assists over his career. He hasn’t yet had a full season with fewer than 140 assists, so it was just a matter of time to get the 88 he needed this year to break the record.

“I wouldn’t want anybody else other than Isaiah to have it.” –Ryan Yoder, 1990-94 CSU men’s basketball guard

Stevens tied the record on a smooth pocket pass to a cutting Patrick Cartier early on against Wyoming, then broke it not long after with a swing pass to longtime teammate John Tonje, who solidified the assist with a long three from the right wing. Though the play was inconsequential at the early stage of the game, it was only fitting that Tonje would hit the record-breaking basket.

Tonje and Stevens came to CSU together in 2019 and have become a staple duo for the Rams. Tonje has been on the receiving end of Stevens’ assists as much as any other teammate he’s played with in his career. Stevens has unique depth as a basketball player, but Tonje is most of all a fan of “the way he reads the game.”

“Everything opens up, and (Stevens) makes my job a whole lot easier,” Tonje said.

When Yoder broke the record, he thought to himself that it could stand for a long time. After all, the difference between Yoder’s 530 and Eddie Hughes’ previous record of 397 was extraordinary.

“I thought to myself, ‘If somebody ever starts for four years, that’s going to be a tough one not to have broken,’” Yoder said. “Then here comes Isaiah doing exactly that, but he’s deserved it, too. He’s a better point guard than I ever was. He’s worked hard, and I’m proud of him.”

Ad

The two have gotten to know each other over the past couple of years, bonding and gaining respect for each other over their love for passing the rock. Though Yoder is every bit as competitive as Stevens, there’s no love lost for the history that was made Saturday.

“I recognize that he’s a tremendous player,” Yoder said. “He’s done it for four years, obviously. Consistency is a part of what I think determines greatness, not just having one good game or one good year, and he’s been able to do it for four years.”

“Because he’s such a phenomenal player, and because he’s a solid guy, man of character, man of faith, worked hard, … I wouldn’t want anybody else other than Isaiah to have it,” Yoder said.

Stevens has had success on just about every court he’s walked on over his tenure in high school and college. He won the Class 6A state title in Texas as a junior in high school and more recently was a major piece on the way to CSU’s program-best 25-6 record in the 2021-22 season. But alone at the top of Stevens’ list of favorite accomplishments is the assist record.

“This is probably number one,” Stevens said. “The assist record has been on my mind since I stepped into Fort Collins as an 18-year-old kid.”

“Hopefully, somebody else is able to come through and look up to not only myself but Ryan as well,” Stevens said.

Reach Braidon Nourse at sports@collegian.com or on Twitter @BraidonNourse.