Adam Zagoria covers basketball at all levels. He is the author of two books and an award-winning journalist whose articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Sports Illustrated, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide.
The first Big Storyline out of the Rumble in the Bronx is this: Lance Stephenson’s father has added St. John’s to his son’s list of potential colleges.
Four schools are currently in contention for the services of the 6-foot-5 Stephenson, the No. 7 overall player and No. 2 shooting guard in the Class of 2009.
“Right now we’re down to Kansas, UCLA and USC,” Stephenson Sr. said after his summer team, Raising Champions, blew a 21-point lead and was upset by the Central Jersey Hawks, 66-64, in their first game at Fordham University. “St. John’s, too. St. John’s came on late after the team camp that they had last week. Lance liked what he saw there, so that’s kind of the new team.
“We’re trying to narrow it down at this point, so I would say that’s about it.”
I had previously repored that Kentucky was in the mix instead of USC, but Stephenson Sr. said that was not the case. Still, Lance said the list is fluid.
“It’s a good tradition, good coach. I just want to be surrounded by good players and that’s what these schools got,” said Stephenson, who tallied 12 points in the loss, missing two potential go-ahead free throws with 5 seconds remaining.
“I’m looking forward to other schools, too. I love these schools, but I’m looking at other schools, too.”
Stephenson will participate in the Steve Nash Nike Skills Academy in Union, N.J. in late June in order to develop his point guard skills before heading to Washington, D.C. for the U18 national team tryouts July 1-3.
“He’s been working out hard,” said his father, who launched the Raising Champions team this summer, triggering Lance’s departure from the Juice All-Stars.
“I just hope I don’t mess up, me coaching him,” Lance Sr. said. “We got two losses now (including one in Arkansas). That’s either me or…The first game is always tough.
“I think tonight this definitely was a coach’s loss, so I learned a lesson today. Hopefully we finish up strong the rest of the way.”
Stephenson has already visited three of the four schools on his list, with Kansas being the exception.
During his visit to USC last fall, Stephenson visited with O.J. Mayo, who recently was accused by ESPN of taking cash and gifts in exchange for ultimately picking Bill Duffy Associates as his agent. Mayo is projected to go in the top 6 or 7 in the June 26 NBA Draft.
“He had a good visit with them,” the father said. “Coach (Tim Floyd) really likes Lance a lot. He talks about how he’s been in the NBA and he’s a good coach to develop guards, and his offense is geared for his two guards to score a lot.”
Stephenson Sr. said a family attorney, Albert Ebanks, was advising the family, and that he had no concerns about his son meeting the same fate as Mayo.
“We have a strong family on both sides that help us,” he said. “We don’t entertain it, so nobody’s come up to us. We don’t have those problems. When we’re in Coney Island, everything is like a normal teengaer. We don’t have those temptations. Right now it’s just about playing.
“The people that fall into that temptation, I think wanted to do it. I’m about doing things the right way.”
As for the other schools on the list, Stephenson Sr. praised St. John’s head coach Norm Roberts.
“I know it has been down in the past, but St. John’s has a great tradition. CoachRoberts is trying, he’s working hard. He’s out recruiting, trying to get some of the best caliber kids. He’s working hard. With Lance working hard, I think it could definitely happen.”
He also visited UCLA for the Difference Matchup tournament in early April, when Stephenson played with Renardo Sidney’s LA Dream Team.
“And with UCLA, the last player to go to UCLA from New York City that I could remember was Kareem Abdul-Jabbar,” Stephenson Sr. said. “And that’s a lovely legacy for Lance to follow behind, to out to L.A., not for the glammer and the glitz, but the competition and the PAC 10. That’s one of the tougher conferences.
“Coach (Ben) Howland loves New York City players.”
Stephenson Sr. is also a big fan of Kansas Coach Bill Self, whose team is the defending NCAA champion.
“Coach Self is a wonderful coach,” the father said. “He’s a player’s coach. He turned a lot of players around hat might’ve been headed in the wrong direction. He’s a real disciplinarian. What I like about him is, he wants to win.”
No visit has yet been set to Kansas.
“We have to get to Kansas,” he said. “Maybe when the summer cools down.”
Adam Zagoria is a Basketball Insider who covers basketball at all levels. A contributor to The New York Times and SportsNet New York (SNY), he is also the author of two books and is an award-winning journalist and filmmaker. His articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide. He also won an Emmy award for his work on the SNY mini-documentary on Syracuse guard Tyus Battle.
A veteran Ultimate Frisbee player, he has competed in numerous National and World Championships and, perhaps more importantly, his teams won the Westchester Summer League (WSL) championships in 2011 and 2013.
He lives in Manhattan with his wife and children.