For those of us who live in New York, Lance Stephenson’s name rung out over the past few years. Hailing from the same school at Stephon Marbury and Sebastian Telfair — and looking like a guy who might have the most talent of the three — he became a city legend. He led Lincoln High School to four straight PSAL city public league titles (something that has never been done before) while also become the most prolific scorer in New York state history.
It even got Lance, a guy who earned the nickname “Born Ready” by hanging with — and, at times, embarrassing — seasoned adults on the legendary Rucker Park courts, onto the cover of Dime magazine as a junior alongside the cover line “This 17-year-old would be an NBA star right now.” Given his underwhelming freshman year at Cincinnati and foolish-by-some-people’s-estimation decision to enter the NBA Draft this year, the hype has so far been overstated. The very fact that he was picked 40th in the draft tells you all you need to know about how other NBA GMs rate his future potential.
Still, the kid has talent. Here’s what Dime recently had to say about Stephenson in a piece they did acknowledging their overzealous estimation of his ability.
You think when we slapped a 17-year-old high school junior on the cover of Dime #42 and declared he would “be an NBA star right now,” it would go down as one of the biggest fumbles in basketball mag history, right?
Well, you’re right. In a way. We did call it too early. Lance Stephenson wouldn’t have been an NBA star at 17. But watch as he becomes one in his 20’s. Or at least climbs higher than being the bust so many are making him out to be.
But think about the elements we look for in a successful NBA player, and then you’ll realize he has almost every one. Size? Lance goes 6-5 and 210 at 19 years old, more than good enough for an NBA two-guard. Skills? He can handle the rock like a point guard, pass better than a lot of twos, and his strength is on par with many small forwards. Clutch? Against UConn on national TV, Lance hit game-winning free throws with 0.7 seconds left, then later downed Rutgers in the BIG EAST Tournament with two free throws as 1.8 showed on the clock. Work ethic? In high school, Lance woke up hours before school every morning in Coney Island to run stairs. Good teammate? While he was clearly the most talented player on the Bearcats this season, Lance routinely deferred to the upperclassmen, until he was called upon to be the primary scorer.
His jumper needs work, and he needs to play more under control, but plenty of teenagers have come into the NBA with the same issues. What’s important is that the basic foundation is set. Maybe he won’t be an All-Star or even a starter right away, but Lance Stephenson will be all right.
Take that for what you will. It’s coming from a magazine that obviously has some vested interest from a credibility standpoint in Lance — at a bare minimum — being “all right.”
I can’t personally add anything to the Lance discussion. The memorable aspect of Stephenson’s career to me was the fact that me, a St. John’s University alum, and many of my other SJU friends were very, very disappointed when he did decided not to come to St. John’s. But as I have been continually noting, I don’t really watch much college basketball and have only seen Stephenson play one time.
Thus, I leave you with Lance in his own words, via an interview he did last month with Draft Express.