2010 (Senior):HEADER LANCE STEPHENSON, Jr. Shooting Guard University of Cincinnati Bearcats #33 6:04.5-227 Brooklyn, New York Abraham Lincoln High School Bishop Loughlin Memorial High School
OVERVIEW Stephenson's storied history on the New York playgrounds was featured in a movie, "Gunnin' for That No. 1 Spot," which followed eight high school basketball prospects. He had received his "Born Ready" nickname from Bobbito Garcia, a courtside announcer at Rucker Park, in the summer of 2006 during a game vs. older players.
Stephenson had just played in a youth all-star game as the only rising sophomore out of the 24 top high school players in the nation, and the game that followed was a player short. Garcia said, "I'd seen him go up against seasoned NBA veterans, seasoned college cats, high school kids two or three years older than him, and he was always reppin', so I just called it. He's 'Born Ready.'"
Stephenson tattooed the nickname on his right bicep, and also allowed a video crew to document his life for an online reality show entitled "Born Ready". Questions remained over his eligibility because of his involvement in the documentary, but on Nov. 6, 2009, the NCAA cleared him to play in Cincinnati's season opener vs. Prairie View A&M without missing any games.
The Coney Island native first caught the attention of scouts at age 12, when Clark Francis, a talent evaluator, saw him play at the "Rumble in the Bronx" AAU tournament. Before his first year of high school, he attended the Adidas ABCD Camp, where he challenged O.J. Mayo to a one-on-one game.
In the summer of 2005, Stephenson enrolled at Bishop Loughlin Memorial High School, but he only attended the school for three days, before the school lost in the championship game of a youth league and he did not win the tournament MVP. The following week, Stephenson did not return to classes at Bishop Loughlin, and was attending Abraham Lincoln High School near his home in Coney Island.
Stephon Marbury and Sebastian Telfair are former Lincoln High players. The school's head coach Dwanye Morton said, "Stephenson always talked about outdoing Sebastian, outdoing Stephon," and called him "The best I've ever had at Lincoln." Stephenson went on to lead the Railsplitters to the city title that year.
Lincoln High repeated as champions his sophomore and junior years, while Stephenson won back-to-back Player of the Year honors from the New York Daily News. In January 2008, he was suspended from school for five days and missed two games following an altercation with a teammate. Still, he was named to the annual USA Today's All-USA team, the only non-senior to given that honor.
In July 2008, Stephenson tried out for the United States national team's under-18 team, but was cut because of chemistry issues. In October that year, he was arrested for groping a 17-year-old in the school. He faced a Class B misdemeanor sexual assault charge, and his parents ended the "Born Ready" reality show following the arrest.
On Feb. 15, 2009, Stephenson passed fellow Lincoln High School alumnus Telfair's previous record of 2,785 points in the Brooklyn borough title game to become the all-time leading scorer for high school basketball in New York State. In March 2009, he led Lincoln High to an unprecedented fourth consecutive Public Schools Athletic League (PSAL) class AA championship.
Stephenson scored a game-high 24 points and grabbed 10 rebounds to in the 78-56 final win vs. John F. Kennedy, and helped Lincoln become the first school in city history to win four straight titles. His high school career ended in the New York State semifinal, where Rice High School beat Lincoln 77-50, and Stephenson was held to 12 points by Rice's Durand Scott, who also beat out Stephenson for the Daily News' New York City player of the year honor.
Stephenson ended his career with 2,946 points. In April 2009, Stephenson played in the McDonald's All-American Game, finishing with 12 points, six assists and three steals. He told reporters he would announce which college he would be attending following the PSAL title game in March, but delayed the announcement until April 1, saying, "I already know where I'm going. This is not the right place (to make an announcement)."
In early 2009, Stephenson chose Kansas, St. John's and Maryland as his finalists, but he canceled two announcements, and his father said that he had narrowed his choice to Maryland and Arizona. His official visit to Maryland in February came under scrutiny after he was given a tour of the Under Armour headquarters during his visit.
This may have constituted a recruiting violation, as Under Armour CEO Kevin Plank is a Maryland graduate and on the university's board of trustees, and by NCAA rules, "representative of the institution's athletics interests" or a booster.
In April 2009, another top recruit Xavier Henry, was released from his commitment to Memphis after coach John Calipari left to take the Kentucky job. Henry announced he would play for Kansas. Because his commitment put Kansas at the 13-scholarship limit under NCAA rules, it ruled out a scholarship offer for Stephenson.
On May 20, 2009, the last day of NCAA's late signing period for basketball players, the Lincoln High product had not declared or signed a letter of intent with the college he would attend that fall. His father, Lance Sr., told USA Today that he would not make a decision until his sexual assault case from October was resolved. The day before, a judge had adjourned his case until June 29.
On June 30th, 2009, Stephenson signed a financial aid agreement with the University of Cincinnati and he joined them for the Bearcats for the 2009-10 season. The Class AA New York State Sports Writers Association (NYSSWA) Player of the Year, who graduated high school as the all-time leading scorer in the history of the state of New York with 2,946 points, Stephenson was finally ready to write another chapter to his basketball career.
In 2009-10, Stephenson was named Cincinnati's Defensive Player of the Year at the annual UC Awards Banquet. The shooting guard earned Big East Conference Rookie of the Year honors, becoming the first UC men's basketball player to earn the distinction since the Bearcats joined the league in 2005-06. He joined DerMarr Johnson (1999-00 in Conference USA), Danny Fortson (1994-95 in Great Midwest Conference), and Dontonio Wingfield (1993-94 in Great Midwest Conference) as the only players in program history to earn freshman/rookie/newcomer of the year honors.
Stephenson, averaged over 28 minutes per game, finishing second on the team with 31 steals and an average of 5.4 rebounds per game. He led the league's freshmen in scoring in overall (12.3 points per game) and conference-only games (12.1 points per game). He also finished in the top five overall among league freshmen in rebounds (5.4 per game/fourth), steals (1.0 per game/fifth), and assists (2.4 per game/fourth).
Four times during the 2009-10 season, the 6-foot-5 guard was named Big East Rookie of the Week, the most by any incoming player. Stephenson won the weekly award the last two weeks of the regular season after averaging 16.8 points and 8.3 rebounds per game over UC's last four contests. He also added 11 assists and five steals during the stretch.
On April 7, 2010, Stephenson announced that he would forgo his final three seasons of collegiate eligibility and enter the 2010 NBA Draft.
Stephenson looks to become the first Bearcat drafted since James White, who was taken by the Portland Trailblazers with the 31st pick in the 2006 NBA Draft. DerMarr Johnson was the last UC freshman to have his name called out on draft day when he was taken by the Atlanta Hawks with the sixth pick in the 2000 NBA Draft.
GAME ANALYSIS Scored seven points, grabbed four boards and dished out two assists in collegiate debut vs. Prairie View A&M...Added scored 16 points on 6-of-13 shooting vs. Toledo...Fell just shy of first double-double with 11 points and eight boards vs. Maryland...Scored a team-high 15 points in the EA Sports Maui Invitational Championship vs. Gonzaga...Put together a terrific all-around performance with seven points, a career-high seven assists, and a career-high 11 rebounds vs. Texas Southern...Poured in 15 points at Seton Hall and scored 13 of 15 points in the first half vs. Pittsburgh...Led UC vs. Connecticut with 21 points, including the go-ahead free throws with 0.7 seconds to play...Scored a team-best 19 points and dished out five assists in a win over Lipscomb and collected a team-high 22 points, the first 20-point performance of his career, on nine made field goals in Crosstown Shootout vs. Xavier...Poured in a game-high 17 points and tacked on eight rebounds, three assists, and three steals vs. Miami (Oh.)...Registered his first career double-double with 18 points and 10 rebounds, which included a season-best five offensive rebounds, in a win over DePaul...Posted a team-high 14 points vs. UConn and scored 10 points and added a team-high eight rebounds vs. Syracuse...Had 12 points and nine boards off the bench in win over Providence and tallied 12 points and grabbed six rebounds at Louisville...Scored a season-best 23 points and made a season-high 11 field goals in 17 attempts at George-town and registered his third consecutive double-figure scoring performance vs. Villanova with 12 points...Named Big East Freshman of the Week for a third time on March 1 after averaging almost a double-double vs. DePaul and West Virginia (2/27)...Totaled 13 points, including the game-winning free throw with less than two seconds to play, and grabbed nine rebounds in the first round of the conference tournament vs. Rutgers...Notched his seventh consecutive double-figure scoring effort with a game-high 19 points in the quarterfinals of the Big East Championship vs. West Virginia...Added 14 points in the first-round NIT game vs. Weber State...Finished his campaign with 13 points and six rebounds vs. Dayton in the second round of the NIT.
2009-10 SEASON Named Big East Conference Rookie of the Year...Started 32-of-34 games for the Bearcats, as he led the team and ranked 28th in the conference in scoring, averaging 12.3 points per game (419 total) and was the top freshman scorer in the league...Hit on 162-of-368 field goals (44.0 percent), 16-of-73 three-pointers (21.9%) and 79-119 free throws (66.4 percent)...Pulled down 182 rebounds (5.4 per game), as he handed out 84 assists, had 31 steals and blocked six shots...Disqualified once, as he was charged with 66 personal fouls and a team-high 81 turnovers...Recorded at least 10 rebounds in a game twice and at least ten points in a contest 23 times, including three 20-plus point efforts.
CAREER NOTES Stephenson earned 2009-10 Big East Conference Rookie of the Year honors, becoming the first UC player to earn the distinction since the Bearcats joined the league in 2005-06.
HIGH SCHOOL After originally enrolling at Bishop Loughlin (Brooklyn, N.Y.) Memorial High School, Stephenson left the school after three days and attended Abraham Lincoln (Brooklyn, N.Y.) High School, where he was named a 2009 McDonald's High School All-American... Averaged 28.9 points, 10.2 rebounds, and 3.9 assists to earn Class AA New York State Sports Writers Association (NYSSWA) Player of the Year honors his senior year...Three-time NYSSWA first-team selection...Graduated high school as the all-time leading scorer in the history of the state of New York with 2,946 points, passing fellow Lincoln High grad Sebastian Telfair...Led Lincoln to an overall record of 22-11 and an unprecedented fourth consecutive Public School Athletic League (PSAL) Class AA championship...Scored 24 points and grabbed 10 rebounds in a 78-56 victory over John F. Kennedy in the league championship game...Led the Railsplitters to state semifinals appearances his final three seasons, including Federation Tournament championships in 2007 and 2008.
PERSONAL Exploratory Studies major...Son of Bernadette and Lance Stephenson, Sr...Born Lance Stephenson, Jr., on 9/05/90...Resides in the Coney Island section of Brooklyn, New York.
SCOUTING REPORT Positives: Tall, strong-looking off-guard with the wingspan (6-foot-11), standing reach (8-7), leaping ability (33-inch vertical jump) and strength (10 reps in the bench press) to finish strong at the basket...Has very good size to play on the wing and is a very effective scorer working inside or from mid-range, but his perimeter shooting needs mechanical refinement...Has worked hard on his conditioning in recent months, reducing his body-fat percentage to 9.3 percent...Light on his feet and is suited for playing in an up-tempo attack...Shows good form, elevation, wrist flick and a high release point with his mid-range jumper (fails to shoot with the same mechanics from long range)...Has the quick initial step to slash to the rim and is strong enough to score in the post...Had a reputation for being selfish with the ball in his hands but dispelled the notion late in his college freshman year by showing that he was could locate better scoring opportunities by feeding the ball off to his teammates...Needs to develop better consistency but his money shot is a pull-up jumper...Finishes well in transition, showing good body control and power on his drives to the rim...Gets to the free throw line due to his ability to draw contact driving to the basket, as the defender will generally bite on his fakes...Has the agility and quickness to create his own shot with either hand, but is best when taking the ball into the paint rather than dishing it out...Has a fluid mid-range pull-up jumper and when given room to operate and not force the action, he is adequate at executing a decent pass to an open teammate (needs to do this more often)...Has the vision to spot traps and double teams...Threat to score from the low post, especially when matched up against smaller defenders...Has enough burst to beat forwards off the dribble...Uses his upper-body strength to absorb punishment and draw contact in the lane...Efficient defender thanks to his reach and quick hands...When he maintains position, he will fight hard for rebounds...Good at creating his shot from a triple-threat position...Comes off curls smoothly and is effective pulling up and firing from mid-range with either hand...Has the size needed for an interior game, and when his back is to the basket, he is smooth making the turnaround jumper.
Negatives: Needs to be monitored for conditioning in the offseason...Marginal perimeter shooter, lacking range to consistently knock down shots beyond 19 feet...Tried to show an unselfish side as a distributor last year, but still went through long stretches where he kept shooting when shots weren't falling...Needs to pass on contested shots and some scouts question his basketball IQ...Even though he was humbled as a freshman, like Stephon Marbury, Omar Cook and Gilbert Arenas, he will be looked upon by some general managers as a player who was hard to handle by previous coaches...Fighting with a teammate and a sexual assault charge raise red flags that need to be addressed...When his shot seems to fail, he will sulk, leading to questions about his maturity level...Has good, not great athleticism...Most of his perimeter shooting problems are due to average elevation -- he doesn't get good explosion to rise and fails to set his feet properly...With his ability to finish at the basket, evaluators were surprised to see him rely on fade-away jumpers...Has good court speed but needs to improve stamina -- often lagged behind late in games...Has a poor attitude on the court, jawing with the referees and yelling at teammates...More flash than substance and he too often strives for the highlight reel instead of just taking the two easy points...Shows little desire to play defense.
--Report by Dave-Te' Thomas
Compares To: GILBERT ARENAS, Washington -- Stephenson is a lights-out shooter, but while he can generate a strong inside game and click on his mid-range jumpers, his perimeter shooting is poor. He was lectured late in the year and became a better ball distributor, but has to fight the scorer's urge when his shot isn't falling. The big concern with him is maturity.