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.
Lance Stephenson has won more championships in Madison Square Garden in the last five years than the Knicks have in their entire history.
Yes, those were PSAL high school titles at Lincoln High School, but there is no denying Stephenson’s comfort factor in the World’s Most Famous Arena.
The Brooklyn native nicknamed “Born Ready” could end up playing professionally in the Garden if things fall a certain way.
The 6-foot-5, 220-pound Stephenson will work out Saturday for the Knicks at their Westchester Campus.
Samardo Samuels, the former Louisville and St. Benedict’s Prep standout, will also be on hand Saturday. New York picks No. 38 and 39 in the second round of Thursday’s NBA Draft.
The Nets, for whom Stephenson works out on Wednesday, draft at No. 27 in the first round and No. 31 in the second.
“I think he’ll be late-first or early-second,” one Eastern Conference NBA scout said of Stephenson.
Stephenson is the all-time leading scorer in New York State history and led Lincoln to an unprecedented four straight PSAL titles between 2006-9.
After Stephenson won Big East Rookie of the Year honors at Cincinnati, SNY.tv was the first to report his plan to jump to the NBA.
At the time, Stephenson cited his 2-year-old daughter, Liara, as a motivation for going pro
“My daughter has played a big role in my life,” Stephenson previously told SNY.tv. “Ever since she came, I’ve just been real focused. I take everything more serious. I’m just more mature.”
After leaving school in April, he spent five weeks at the Impact Basketball Academy in Las Vegas training and getting his body in order.
“He’s more defined and in turn he’s more explosive,” Andrew Moore of the Impact Academy said. “He’s really benefited from losing a little bit of weight and he’s gained lean muscle mass.”
The scout, who saw Stephenson work out about three weeks ago, spoke highly of his NBA potential.
“He was in good shape,” the scout said. “He got whatever he wanted whenever he wanted on the court. He either scored or drew two and dropped it off. He can finish with either hand. He was very good off the dribble-drive.”
There is no denying Stephenson’s off-the-court history.
He got into a fight with a high school teammate and was suspended for two games.
Two summers ago, he was cut from the U.S. U18 team by head coach Bob McKillop of Davidson over concerns about his attitude and ability to play within the team concept.
And he pleaded guilty last July to disorderly conduct and agreed to perform three days of community service after being charged with misdemeanor sexual assault for allegedly groping a 17-year-old girl outside of Lincoln High.
“I didn’t do nothing,” Stephenson told reporters after a recent workout with the Golden State Warriors. “All the stuff that happened in my past was totally false statements. I am just trying to move on and give a better image. All the statements that happened in the past, none of that happened, no.”
Despite those past incidents, the scout said Stephenson was exemplary during his time at Cincinnati and had no concerns about him going forward.
“He had a very clean record this year,” the scout said. “He was the scholar athlete of the year at Cincinnati on the basketball team.
“He had no incidents, no problems, no bad body language. He was clean. A lot of people feel he’s growing up, he’s maturing.”
(Photo courtesy Getty Images)
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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.