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 Brooklyn native will be right back at the Garden on Sunday at 1 p.m. to watch his alma mater, Lincoln High School, take on Boys & Girls for the PSAL championship.
And then Stephenson will cap off his Big Apple weekend when his Indiana Pacers visit the Knicks at 6 o’clock.
“I hope they win [Sunday],” Stephenson said of the Railsplitters (28-2), whom Lance led to an unprecedented four straight PSAL titles from 2006-9.
“It’s weird seeing the young fellas play. A lot of kids [were] on the team when I was on the team, so I’m going to come out and support them and hopefully get that win tomorrow.”
Stephenson is a fan of talented Lincoln freshman Isaiah Whitehead, a 6-foot-4 wing averaging 14 points, five rebounds and three assists.
“He’s good,” Stephenson said. “I [saw] him when he was younger, but now that he’s in high school I’ve seen he’s grown a lot. He’s a better player and he’s helping the Lincoln team get better as team.”
Whitehead, ranked among the top freshmen in the nation, is considered the next in a line of Lincoln stars that includes Stephon Marbury, Sebastian Telfair and Stephenson.
Whitehead said Stephenson gave him some words of advice when they spoke last summer.
“[He said] come in and play a role and this team will be yours at some time,” Whitehead recalled.
Said Stephenson: “I told him, ‘Work hard, stay focused in school. School comes before basketball and when you do good in school, then the basketball comes easy.'”
Lincoln coach Tiny Morton said Whitehead, a supremely athletic wing with a high basketball IQ, could be as good as any of the Lincoln legends before him.
“He’s got a chance to be right there,” Morton said. “He’s not as skilled as those guys [were] earlier. But he’s got a chance to be right there.”
The all-time leading scorer in New York history, Stephenson said he hopes someone — perhaps Whitehead — breaks his scoring mark at some point.
“I want somebody to break my record so he’s coming off as a good start as a freshman,” Stephenson said. “I just want to see somebody that’s doing better than me.”
From where he sits, Whitehead tries to avoid comparisons to Stephenson, Telfair and Marbury.
“I just want to be Isaiah Whitehead,” he said.
Whitehead’s favorite NBA player is another Brooklyn native, Carmelo Anthony, who sat in the front row wearing sunglasses for the UConn-Louisville game.
After spending much of the NBA season glued to the bench under former coach Jim O’Brien, Stephenson may get some run against Anthony and the Knicks.
Under interim head coach Frank Vogel, Stephenson is averaging 4.6 points and 1.9 rebounds in 13 minutes per game.
“Frank is a great coach,” Stephenson said. “I’m just happy I’m getting playing time and I’m just trying to help my team win.”
Asked if he was excited to conclude his hoops-happy weekend by playing at the Garden instead of watching, Stephenson said, “I can’t wait to get here.”
(Photo courtesy Daily News)
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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.