Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Stephenson Detractors Need To Tone It Down

Lance Stephenson sliced up defenders in shark-size bites, as if it was a routine day on Gotham's streetball circuit.

An innate scoring machine, Stephenson is still undecided on a college choice.

The catalyst of a N.Y. Panthers squad dripping with All-American talent, one that emphasizes a souped-up style, Stephenson hung a game-high 38 points en route to an 84-76 dubya in the quarterfinals of the Nike Spring High School Classic. The kid they call "Born Ready" soared above the competition at IS8 in Jamaica, Queens.

Buoyed by his teammates and ever-growing entourage in the congested, bandbox gym, Stephenson put his wowing offensive arsenal on display.

A listless defensive effort and inability to clamp down on Stephenson gift-wrapped the perfect mother's day present for Lance's Mom. Her son was virtually unstoppable, putting the pedal to the one-man ride to the medal.

Despite the 6-foot-6, 220-pound guard's superior scoring, NBA build, and wunderkind-like athleticism, the skeptics have surfaced.

They said his college choice wasn't a major decision cooking on his front burner. Based on hearsay and innuendo, they said money and a school where he could be "the man" before bolting to the league--a la O.J. Mayo at USC--was his top priority.

Too many pundits have popped their lips, relentlessly, and jumped to quick judgements. Too many many detractors and naysayers have doubted the kid from the Coney Island projects, saying his recruiting process has been tainted and the so-called baggage he brings will disrupt a team's chemistry.

disgruntled fans and basketball junkies, gurus, and talent evaluators alike don't seem to consider that the kid has yet to step foot in an NCAA game. All that is on paper is what he's done at legendary Lincoln High. All he did at the Brooklyn basketball breeding house is skyrocket to stardom while averaging a mammoth 32 points and 13 boards per game, re-writing the record books while leading the railsplitters to a record four straight PSAL titles.

Yes, there was an incident where he sent a teammate to the hospital. There was also his October 2008 arrest for allegedly groping a 17-year-old girl.

SportsIllustrated.com Kevin Armstrong revealed that Stephenson "fathered a daughter" over the summer.

Still, for those out there who want to paint him with the same brush that the NY Post painted Stephon Marbury (during his stay with the Knicks and Nets), knock yourselves out. Before you jump to conclusions and label him a headcase or a severe cancer-causing agent for any program in the country, however, wait until he's at the next level.

He's still a teenager, his entire life into the great wide open and ahead of him.

So, referencing him as a carcinogen and a "supermodel with herpes" (as a blog poster wrote on Zagsblog.com) is certainly teetering on the cusp of crass.

Stephenson has been more heavily scrutinized on and off the basketball court than any high school superstar ever. Some say it comes with the territory, as the manchild already had his own web tv show (http://www.bornready.tv/), grazed the cover of sports magazines, and has been actively pursued by Under Armour.


People tend to forget the pressure is avalanching, as the most important decision of this ultra-talented baller's life continues to weigh on his broad shoulders.

A highly-rated, game beyond-his-years brand of player in a world where boosters funnel more dough than a Brooklyn pizzeria and all sorts of pressure is being thrust to the forefront, his recruiting process demands dead-eye diligence.

A hotly pursued product on the recruiting marketplace, word that "Born Ready" was going to Europe, then Kansas, and then St. John's traveled around the basketball country's sizzling campfire.

With the pressure of being that next great guard out of New York City avalanching, Stephenson toyed with the idea of bringing New York back.

He flirted with the idea of putting the St. John's program back on the map, the notion of salvaging a program that's slipping under the albatross of obscurity.

The fact that he didn't commit to St. John's has enraged some, who have been harsh critics of the young gun throughout the blogosphere.

Easy does it, folks.

Why, all of a sudden, has the city's latest premiere prospect caused this uproar of criticism and manifesto of hate?

Based on Sebastian Telfair's meltdown (and pro career that's been mediocre thus far) and the major image blow homegrown product Stephon Marbury suffered during his stay with the Knicks, one would think the talking heads and masses would want to revive the battered image of the New York City guard.

Ironically, Marbury and Telfair hail from the same Coney Island projects and also attended Lincoln HS.

You would figure the outside world would want to re-write the script.

Instead of assuming he's cut from the same cloth as a me-first individualist like Marbury, you'd expect Born Ready to be transformed from the public eye from star player to basketball deity.

He has, to a degree, been hyped up to heaven-sent. Still, too often aspects of Stephenson's life and recruiting have been overanalyzed, dissected, and thrown back at him by the media and bloggers.

Simply put, the kid is too young to be the constant verbal punching bag for aggressive fans on the blogs.