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.
With Florida, St. John’s, Kansas, Maryland and possibly Arizona all out, Memphis may have the best chance to land the 6-foot-5 Stephenson.
“If the kid wants to come here, Memphis will take him. There’s no doubt about that,” said Keith Easterwood, a longtime AAU coach in Memphis.
One source with knowledge went so far as to say Stephenson was planning an upcoming visit to the Conference USA school.
“I think he is taking a visit. I think Memphis is leading,” the source said. “They are two feet in on Lance.”
Still, word is that Memphis coach Josh Pastner has had trouble getting in touch with Lance Stephenson Sr.
“We have two official visits left and we’re going to use those last two visits real wise,” Lance Sr. told me recently. “At this point we’re just trying to keep Lance’s recruitment private so that he can actually be recruited.”
Lance Sr. was not immediately available for a comment on the matter today.
Stephenson is facing a sexual assault charge that will be taken up in Brooklyn Criminal Court on June 29 and it would seem unlikely that any commitment would take place before then.
Lance Jr. recently told me that he would choose within “three weeks” between Arizona, Florida, Maryland and Memphis, but both Florida and Maryland appear to be out, and it remains unclear if Arizona coach Sean Miller is interested.
If Arizona lands point guard Lamont “Momo” Jones, the ‘Cats may also opt out for Lance.
That leaves Memphis.
On one hand, the Tigers still need some players and Lance would seem like a perfect fit.
They play an uptempo brand of basketball in which Stephenson — the all-time leading scorer in New York State history — could flourish, even if only for one season. Lance has repeatedly said he is interested in Memphis.
After John Calipari left Memphis for Kentucky, the Tigers lost signed commits Xavier Henry (Kansas) and Darnell Dodson (Kentucky) and two players leaning their way in point guard John Wall and big man DeMarcus Cousins, both of whom later signed with Kentucky.
“[Stephenson] comes here for one year and stops some of the bleeding that Cal took with him,” Easterwood said.
Incoming Memphis recruit Latavious Williams is on record saying he would love to play alongside Lance, too.
“I haven’t met him,” Williams said of Stephenson before Williams committed to Memphis. “I saw him in Vegas. If he goes to Memphis, that would be a good thing.”
On the other hand, Memphis is already under investigation from the NCAA in the Derrick Rose case. Rose, now with the Chicago Bulls, allegedly had someone else take his SAT for him.
If proven true, Memphis could forfeit its 38-win season and Final Four appearance in 2008, although the current team and future of the program are not in jeopardy, Pastner said.
There has been speculation that the BornReady.tv Website could trigger an investigation into Stephenson no matter where he goes.
Still, Lance Sr. says he was told the site is in compliance with NCAA regulations.
“The people from Born Ready did the documentary in compliance with the NCAA and we made sure that everything was done right and it was legal to do it,” he said.
So the question is: Does Memphis want to go this route?
“The debate here is do you take him and risk some more [NCAA] investigation coming off an investigation that hasn’t been settled now,” Easterwood said. “Wherever you go, people are talking about it. I just saw some valet parking guys who said, ‘Do we take him or do we not? That’s the big debate, the pros and cons of taking Lance Stephenson.”
“There’s no doubt the kid can play. I’ve watched him since he was 13 years old. He’s a helluva player.”
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.