Maryland fans have been clamoring for Gary Williams to bring in top tier, ACC level talent for the last few seasons. We are sick of seeing players like Dave Neal and Will Bowers come in and play major minutes for a team that won an NCAA Championship in 2002. To make matters worse it seemed as if Gary had no desire to recruit top players the way other ACC coaches like Roy Williams or Mike Krzyzewski do on a yearly basis. Well after a year where Gary’ recruiting prowess was pounced on by Terps fans like a hungry pit bull on a filet mignon he seems to have finally gotten the message. As each day passes and Stephenson pushes his announcement date back further and further (he held a press conference to announce he had no announcement on his college decision) it looks less likely he will come to College Park. Maryland fans are still holding out hope that the #3 prospect in the nation; Lance Stephenson a 6-5 200 pound swing man out of Lincoln High School in Brooklyn, New York will become a Terp.
On the court there is no denying the talent of Stephenson; in his four years at Lincoln he has lead them to four consecutive New York City PSAL Championships. On February 15th, 2009 Stephenson passed former Lincoln star Sebastian Telfair as the all-time leading scorer in New York State High School history. Stephenson was named to the 2009 McDonalds All American Team after averaging 31.9ppg, 12.8rpg, and 2.4apg during his senior season.
Stephenson is a talented wing; ranked as the #1 small forward in the 2009 class. Many talent evaluators have claimed Stephenson could be the LeBron James of college basketball; a player who could use his superior size and athleticism to get to the rim at will. One of the few criticisms of his game is his average mid-range and perimeter shot. Stephenson’s jumper is still a work in progress; he improved the consistency and range of his shot each year. Stephenson also can be a ball-hog at times forcing his shot and dribbling too much while his teammates stand around.
Stephenson can be lackadaisical on defense and take plays off; I remember the last McDonald’s All American Gary signed who didn’t play all out on defense. Mike Jones rode the bench for the majority of his career and never came close to meeting his potential with Gary as his coach.
There is no doubt that Stephenson would be the most talent player Gary has brought to College Park in recent memory but he doesn’t come without quite a few off the court incidents.
During his junior season Stephenson was suspended from the basketball team for one game and school for five days after an altercation with a teammate during practice.
In October of 2008 he was charged with sexual assault after a seventeen year old girl claimed Stephenson groped her breasts and buttocks over her clothes. In response the girl punched and kicked Stephenson repeatedly. When a reporter showed up at the Coney Island home of Stephenson an unidentified man eloquently said, “We ain’t got nothing to say.”
Stephenson who has the moniker “Born Ready” and is almost certainly going to be “one and done.” Lance has a website entirely dedicated to him entitled BornReady.TV; does this seem like the kind of kid Gary is going to be able to work with?
Stephenson also had an incident during an impromptu recruiting visit to Maryland. During his visit he took a trip to the Under Armor headquarters which has drawn the interest of the NCAA. Under Armor’s owner is Kevin Plank a former Terps football player who currently sits on the school board of trustees. Plank is considered by the NCAA a booster and Under Armor is potential looking to create a relationship with Stephenson for a future shoe deal. This is a situation the NCAA may not look so kindly upon. I want Maryland to bring in top recruits as badly as anyone but not at the expense of Gary becoming Nick Nolte’s character from the movie Blue Chips.
Kansas was considered the front runner to land Stephenson early in the recruiting process but after Xavier Henry took Kansas’ last available scholarship they quickly fell out of contention. Reportedly St. John’s and Maryland were the final two options but recently Lance said that “he doesn’t want to play at home and he thinks Gary Williams’ system a Maryland is too structured for his offensive game.” This comment puts a serious dent in the chances of either Maryland or St. John’s landing “Born Ready”.
According to some scouting services Maryland and St. John’s have been put on the backburner and Stephenson is being heavily recruited by Arizona’s new head coach Sean Miller. It is completely out of thin air but I have a feeling John Calipari may sneak into this recruiting process as well and potentially bring “Born Ready” to Kentucky. Calipari has a history of handling high profile players and getting “one and done” players ready for the NBA.
With Maryland reportedly slipping out of the Stephenson’s sweepstakes, Gary recently took a rare trip to a player’s home. Gary traveled to Lance’s Coney Island home to meet Stephenson and his family to persuade him to attend College Park next fall. This shows a dedication to recruiting top talent that we haven’t seen in years. In fact this is the first positive recruit story I have heard in a longtime. Most of the stories we hear of Gary on the recruiting trail are horror stories that include top prospects sitting in broom closets and players and parents not having access to Gary personally.
I have my hesitations about bringing Stephenson to College Park. I have major doubts about Gary’s ability to get along with such a high maintenance player. I have my fear that “Born Ready” will not have the team first attitude it takes to successfully play in the flex offense. I don’t think that Stephenson even wants to come to Maryland; if he was going to be a Terp I think he would have made his decision by now. But if he did lets all be honest with ourselves we would love him from the moment he was introduced during midnight madness at the Comcast Center.