SACRAMENTO — Will Leviton had a plan. Last year, he stayed in the gym after his student-manager duties ended to get some basketball tips from Rhode Island’s starting five. Every day.
And he did it without head coach Dan Hurley seeing, or even knowing about it.
Leviton knew it would be an uphill battle to earn his way onto the team, but that’s just what he’s used to.
It’s been a strange road for the sophomore from Providence, but one that has oddly come full-circle across the country in the NCAA Tournament. It was in Sacramento, where the Rams were sent for their first- and second-round games, that he reconnected with his dad, who he hadn’t seen for eight years, and met his brother for the first time.
Leviton’s parents separated shortly after he was born. His father moved to Ivory Coast and he was only able to visit him for eight months as a toddler, then later when he was 12. However, he never met his brother, who had been born in Ivory Coast.
Life in Providence brought its own set of struggles. Leviton was raised solely by his mother, who worked multiple jobs to help the two of them get by.
“We experienced a house robbery at our place,” Leviton said.
Through it all, Leviton worked his way through high school, averaging 11.6 points per game as a senior at Classical in Providence. His dedication resulted in his acceptance to the University of Rhode Island and eventually into a spot on the basketball team.
Hurley is all for it.
“When E.C. Matthews, Hassan Martin, Jared Terrell, [and] Kuran Iverson come over and tell you they would like him to be a walk-on, if you're a smart coach you get him a jersey,” Hurley said.
Though Leviton only appeared in six games this year and played nine total minutes, he clearly brings much more to Rhode Island than his statistics indicate.
“Will is like the invisible heart and soul of the team,” Martin said. “Having him as a walk-on has really helped us.”
Even to the outsider, the energy Leviton brings is clear from watching any Rhody game. Every possession, every bucket, he’s channeling his vintage Kent Bazemore on the bench.
“I have a lot of new [celebrations],” Leviton said. “The trending one right now is “The CPR.”
Leviton’s celebration companion and fellow walk-on Eric Dadika also issued his praise for the guard.
“It’s really fun to have another walk-on I can relate to because he’s always there for me,” Dadika said.
Beyond being an important spiritual leader of the Rams, he’s also beloved in Providence for being the only player on the team from Rhode Island. Recently, Hurley talked about his own joy in being able to bring happiness to the state after the win against Creighton, and no one is able to do that quite like Leviton.
“Whenever I go home to Providence, everyone shows love, and they’re really happy to see me out there,” Leviton said.
And that best part is that he’s able to do it in front of his family. His dad and brother now live in Berkeley, so they were able to make the trip up to Sacramento.
“I really believe it was destiny to see them again and enjoy time with them while they enjoy watching us play in March Madness in Sacramento,” Leviton said.
Standing at 5’8, Leviton may be easily missed on the sideline (unless he’s performing The CPR celebration), but it doesn’t mean he’s forgotten. His story is too unique and his team is just playing too well.