Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Stephenson Headed To Bearcat Country, We Think

Several weeks ago, a friend brought to my attention some growing hearsay.

Through the grapevine, he received word that the coaching staff at Cincinatti reached out to Lincoln High School phenom Lance Stephenson.

Stephenson, a Brooklyn boy pursued by a bevy of the nation's top-flight schools a year ago, was the last high-end recruit standing. He was left with only a few feasible options.

His recruiting tailed off, his image punctured by the microscopic media.

Weeks and zillions of rumors later, my buddy's words proved prophetic.

The sea of hoopheads are no longer aggressively examining the wowing wunderkind's college options.

There's no longer whispers about Stephenson bolting for Europe.

It should be official any minute now...

One of the country's elite, extraterrestrial ballers is heading to a program stuffed in the Big East's lower percentile.


THE STORM IS OVER

The Lance Stephenson saga and overblown recruiting process is over. Hard to believe.

Several rumors--many of which signaled subversive maneuvers on both Stephenson and his potential hardwood homes' side--followed by a manifesto of doubt suddenly smothered the electrifying 6-foot-6 guard.

Stephenson has ended all the speculation by committing to Cincinatti.

Every aspect of Stephenson's young life and next step was analyzed, dissected, magnified, and thrown back at him by the media.

The kid who was dubbed "Born Ready" while manhandling on Gotham's streetball circuit will be playing in the Big East after all.


LANCE THIS, LANCE THAT.....

Several skeptics surfaced, saying Stephenson brings baggage. The Washington Post and Fox Sports hoops blogger Jeff Goodman were perhaps the harshest critics.

On the blogosphere, Stephenson was lambasted. People had him pegged as a major risk for any Division-I program.

Stephenson already skyrocketed to stardom, launching into luminary levels with his online tv show (http://www.bornready.tv/).

This could create an NCAA clearinghouse problem.

With the long arm of the NCAA suddenly cracking down on programs which may not be maid service-clean (see Memphis, UConn, and USC for more on that one), potential major Division-I suitors detected the risk factor.

A plethora of programs once salivating over Stephenson deliberately looked the other way. A number of aspects led coaches to believe the costs outweighed the benefits with Stephenson.

According to Sports Illustrated, Stephenson fathered a daughter. Remember how Jesus Shuttlesworth told girlfriend Lala that a baby was going to affect his chances of going to college?

He's also been involved in a sexual assault case that's yet to reach closure, albeit lawyer Alberto Ebanks vehemently denies that his client committed any wrongdoing.

Throw in some supposed eligibility issues, a history of run-ins with Lincoln head coach Dwayne "Tiny" Morton, and a tour the neophyte took at Under Armour headquarters in Baltimore which he was heavily scrutinized for...

Oh, and there's also an attitude which kept him off the U.S. under-18 national basketball team.

These and several other aspects hindered Stephenson's recruiting process.

The hype, hyperbole, hearsay, and allegations are far from gone, though the fool's errand of a recruiting journey is actually over.

BEARCATS ON THE MAP NEXT YEAR?

With a player of this magnitude, Cincinnatti program could be on the verge of a significant turnaround.

Bearcat big man Yancy Gates showed promise this season, shooting around 48 percent from the floor while establishing himself as one of the conference's elite freshmen.

The key returner is scoring guard Deonta Vaughn. The junior All-Big East selection averaged 15.3 points and 4.7 dimes to lead the Bearcats this season.

The Bearcats return essentially their entire roster while reeling in a replenished recruiting class, headlined by Stephenson and another explosive scorer in guard/forward Sean Kilpatrick.

Kilpatrick, of White Plains, N.Y., is an explosive scorer from Division-I launchpads (White Plains High School and Notre Dame Prep in Fitchburg, Mass.) known to breed high-end talent at the same breakneck rate that Angelina Jolie breeds kids.

MORE CONTROVERSY AWAITING?

At the same time, this may only be the beginning.

The Bearcats haven't exactly been squeaky-clean over the years, and with an offseason dominated by the alleged recruiting violations, the circus could be back in full bloom before we know it.

Stephenson averaged a radiant 32 points and 13 rebounds his senior season.

He made history at the same school that nurtured current NBA players Stephon Marbury and Sebastian Telfair, spearheading the railsplitters to an unprecedented four straight PSAL titles.