---- — Since graduating from McKendree University, St. Anthony almunus John Steppe has exchanged drilling threes for drilling teeth.
The four-year player at McKendree was given one last honor in June, capping off his career by being named the 2012-13 Great Lakes Valley Conference Men's Basketball Scholar-Athlete of the Year.
Steppe became the first Bearcat to win the award as a member of the GLVC, as the McKendree program joined the conference last season.
"I found out about two weeks ago," Steppe said. "I was ecstatic, a great honor to be the scholar athlete of the year. I couldn't have asked for anything more for receiving the award."
Steppe's career path is now taking him to dental school, as he'll be attending Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville in the fall. He's currently working at Heartland Family Dental Care in Effingham.
He was the school's basketball nomination by their Faculty Athletic Representative, and the award was based on athletic and academic performance in the season which the award is based. Nominees had to have a GPA of 3.30, meeting Academic All-American standards. Steppe cleared that easily, finishing his final semester with a 4.0 and a cumulative GPA of 3.68.
"I have always tried to put my work in the classroom first, and basketball second," Steppe said in a press release from McKendree. "To have this award come in our first year in the GLVC makes this even more special. I have had a great experience at McKendree, building relationships with my professors, coaches, fellow students and everyone I have come in contact with over the years. I would do it all again."
McKendree coach Harry Statham agreed with the call to tab his senior as the Scholar-Athlete of the Year.
"John has done a tremendous job of balancing academics and basketball," Statham said. "He was the recipient of the Biology Award at our Honor's Day Convocation and was also voted our Most Valuable Player in men's basketball. John was a leader of our team and was a consistent, high-level performer in every GLVC game. I am thrilled to see him recognized for his dedication and hard work."
While it's off to dental school now, Steppe can look back upon an excellent Division II basketball career. He became the 47th Bearcat to score 1,000 points for his career after reaching the plateau in November. He finished the season 26th on that career list with 1,462 points, and ending in the top 10 for three-pointers (191), assists (321) and steals (134).
Steppe went from averaging 8.9 points per game as a freshman to 7.4 as a sophomore, and then emerged as McKendree's leading scorer as a junior with 13.9 points per game. He upped his game further this year with 17.8 points per game and 7.4 rebounds, finishing as the team leader in assists and rebounds while finishing second in scoring.
It was a bit of a surprise to his coaches as well, in terms of the evolution of his game.
"The expierence was great. My coaches told me, 'We never expected to amount to what you did,'" Steppe said. "I was supposed to be a three-point shooter."
Basketball is over and a dental career is beginning, but Steppe appreciates the evolution of both his athletics and academics.
"Just really, it's a great program, McKendree," he said. "They can build you what you want to be. I went into the biology field, there's a great professor, I was just surrounded by good people. They allowed me to do good on the court and in the classroom at the same time."