Thursday, October 29, 2009

The Legend Of Buckets-Bagger Lance

Lance "Born Ready" Stephenson bags buckets like the rest of us wake up in the morning.

For those of us who aren't hooked on Xanax or Tylenol PM pills, that's early, often, and consistently.

Will Stephenson, a Brooklyn-bred baller who's got all the tools to put together a one-and-done at Cincinnati this year, live up to the hype? A question of perhaps more importance: Will the kid they call Born Ready be ready once the Bearcats kick-start their season against Saginaw Valley State Nov.5?

Conventional wisdom tells us that Stephenson will likely be cleared to play. The biggest issue is whether his online reality show,, thwarts his amateur status.

The NCAA has not ruled on his status. Stephenson is cleared to play academically, which is why the flashy 6-foot-6 guard/wing has been practicing and scrimmaging with the Bearcats.

UC is expecting a decision to be made by the NCAA within two weeks, albeit there is no indication from them whether or not Born Ready will be ready from the get-go or at all.

Stephenson was a beast among boys last season, leading Lincoln High to their record fourth straight PSAL title. Stephenson averaged 28.9 points, 10.2 boards, and 3.9 dimes, en route to being named a McDonald All-American and garnering NYS Class AA Player of the Year.

The recruiting saga of Stephenson--whose penchant for dazzling the crowd with emphatic and extravagant dunks added to his internet celebrity--tells like no other.

First it was Kansas. All signs pointed to Bill Self and former pro Danny Manning selling the wide-bodied, smooth operator. Then we heard Maryland was in the mix. THe Maryland visit put Stephenson in hot water when Under Armour, the athletic apparel company of Brandon Jennings, gave the Stephenson family a tour of their headquarters in Baltimore.

Suddenly, the script flipped.

Word around the blazing Coney Island campfire was that Stephenson was going to stay home, and St. John's would soon pen the highly sought after recruit. This could save the career of Norm Roberts, who had been active in Stephenson's recruitment all along, we thought.

One rumor turned into another, and newly-minted Florida International head coach Isiah Thomas was mired in the conversations. Zeke, looking to resuscitate his image after his storm with the New York Knicks, thoroughly hounded Stephenson and a number of other highly-courted recruits.

Sonny Vaccaro became involved. Tom Konchalski, the widely recognized prep scout who advised Stephenson when he tried out for the USA Under-18 national team and was cut for his body language, was involved. Konchalski was the subject of many interviews for stories about Stephenson.

The media began puncturing his image, saying Stephenson brought baggage. The analysts, pundits, naysayers and haters alike said Stephenson's father, Lance Sr. (known as "Stretch") was an ego maniac who wouldn't send his son to a school where he wouldn't be the man immediately.

Stephenson has wasted no time registering his presence in Bearcat country. He scored 22 points in 25 minutes in the team's first intrasquad scrimmage.

Is the college hoops world ready for Stephenson? He's taller, stronger and more versatile than the previous pro-bound prospects from Lincoln, Stephon Marbury and Sebastian Telfair.

The legend of Buckets Bagger Lance continues this winter.