Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Windback Wednesday: When Lance and SK Were Kings

July 2009:

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

 Mick Cronin and Cincinnati reached out to Lincoln High School’s decorated 6-foot-6 guard Lance "Born Ready" Stephenson.

 I thought to myself...The chances are about as likely as Ron Jeremy being warped in a dry spell in the mid-eighties...No way!

I thought it was the fabrication of a blog report or word around the blazing Coney Island beach fire moving at a furious pace. I didn't consider it. Some website that consistently sparks anonymous sources or rumors of this ilk is trying to stir the pot. It had to be…

Stephenson, well-built guard, unparalleled competitor, and unrivaled scoring threat across the city was pursued by a bevy of the nation's top-flight schools a year ago. For a plethora of reasons, he was the last high-end recruit standing.

He was left with only a few feasible options.

His recruiting tailed off, his image punctured by a media that seemed to have him pegged as a high-risk, uncertain-reward caliber of recruit.

A few months and a whirlwind of high school hallway rumors later, my buddy's words proved prophetic.

The sea of analysts are no longer aggressively examining the wunderkind's college options. They are, however, curious as to whether he will be eligible and make good on his commitment to the Bearcats.

There's no longer whispers about Stephenson bolting for Europe, a move hype artists and bloggers swore would happen.

It's hard to believe one the country's elite, extraterrestrial ballers is heading to a program entrenched in the Big East’s lower percentile.

Then again, Stephenson's recruiting process was constantly marred by controversy. More rumors than a damn Perez Hilton blog--many of which indicated subversive maneauvers from crooked Division-I coaches --surfaced, triggering a manifesto of hate on the young gun following the righteous steps of Sebastian Telfair and Starbury.

Stephenson is laughing his way to the Big East now, ducking the long arm of the NCAA clearinghouse in the process.

With the NCAA in private investigator mode--cracking down on high-majors like UConn, Memphis, and the now baller-barren USC--the circus may be heading to the Ohio River before we know it.

On the other side of the coin, the 6-foot-6 guard from Brooklyn could help revive an ailing program.

The Bearcats will look in increase the scoring role of blossoming young forward in sophomore Yancy Gates (10.6 PPG, 48% FG). Gates could be a dependable beneficiary of Stephenson's flashy dishes inside.

If the controversial Stephenson can circumvent the ever-growing NCAA investigation process and shed oft-noticed attitude issues, a Bearcat resurgence may be in the cards.

It all adds some buzz in a conference oversaturated with the nation's top-tier guards.


Another key newcomer for the Bearcats is White Plains' Sean Kilpatrick, who spent a post-graduate year over at Notre Dame Prep, a widely-recognized basketball factory.  The general perception is Kilpatrick may red-shirt this season due to the overabundance of guards on the roster.

It was at White Plains that Kilpatrick finally become cognizant of the threat he poses for defenders.

Under Spencer Mayfield's we-before-me, no-nonsense style, Kilpatrick bought into the seasoned coach’s defensive-minded focus.
Kilpatrick spent a post-grad year at Notre Dame Prep in effort to get stronger and prepare for the rigors of the collegiate experience academically.

While at Notre Dame Prep, Coach Ryan Hurd was quick to cite the all-around improvement in “SK,” pointing out his passion in bettering his teammates and creating shots for guys like James Southerland and Johnny Lacy.

Kilpatrick shot less and passed more at Notre Dame Prep. He began handing out dimes like a frat house hands out jungle juice and his ability to create enhanced his all-around skill-set 

"At first, I wasn't really crazy about doing an extra year," said Kilpatrick, rockin' a Yankees fitted hat before a thick entourage of family, friends, and an aviser at the National Invitational in Providence in November.

"You know thinking about it now, doing a prep year, it's not a bad idea."