By LEE GEROWITZ
One Great Season
Nineteen-year-old Lance Stephenson has quite possibly made the worst decision of his life: after just one season of collegiate ball, the Big East Rookie of the Year from the University of Cincinnati will enter the 2010 NBA Draft.
Stephenson, a 6-foot-5 guard, averaged 12.3 points, 5.4 rebounds, 2.5 assists per game for the Bearcats. Even more telling are statistics which show that Stephenson needed to make better on-court decisions: 81 turnovers in 34 games (nearly 2.4 per game), and he shot only 44 percent from the field, including 22 percent from three-point range. In short, Stephenson played like a freshman, albeit one with loads of talent. He even left room for improvement from the charity stripe by shooting a measly 66 percent.
Now, it's an off-court decision that may cost Stephenson and his family millions of dollars.
In non-statistical terms, Stephenson's strengths are his ability to drive to the basket and create, something most average NBA players his size can do. However, in the NBA, he'll not only need to do that, but handle the ball better and open up his offensive game by hitting mid-range to three-point jumpers on a more consistent basis. Otherwise, teams will sag off of him, dare him to shoot and simply turn him into the latest version of Felipe Lopez.
Stephenson is projected to be a late first-rounder at best. A second round slot -- which in the NBA means a non-guaranteed contract -- appears to be a more likely destination as of this moment. Of course, things can change between now and Draft Day on June 24.
Any NBA team who drafts Stephenson will be doing so based on potential. And if Stephenson lands in the second round, he potentially screws over himself, first and foremost.
Stephenson has stated his desire to "emotionally and financially support" his family, which includes his 2-year-old daughter. As heartwarming as that sounds, there's also a hard, cold reality: a 19-year-old kid, who's yet to reach his potential on the collegiate level, will now rely on excelling on the world's greatest basketball stage to support his family.
God Bless America.
Who's to blame? Exclude teenager Stephenson from the list, but feel free to include those adults who have influenced his decision.
Papa Stephenson, also known as Lance's dad, said, "We feel as a family this is the best thing for Lance's future, and he is ready for the NBA."
Translation: Someone in this family needs to bring home the bacon ... and quick.
Cincinnati Coach Mick Cronin, who just saw his team's 2010-2011 expectations plummet with Stephenson's departure, laid another "WTF" quote on the media when he said, "His personal circumstances dictate that he try to continue his development in the NBA while he's getting paid. He's going to get that opportunity to do it while alleviating the (financial) pressure on his family."
Note to Cronin: continuing development in the NBA while getting paid is also known in some circles as the NBA D-League. The "D" stands for "development." And the pay? Not too good.
Lance Stephenson certainly will have a shot at playing in the NBA. But the question is, for how long? Will Stephenson be a first-round flame-out? A second-round casualty who fades into the D-League? Or will the kid nicknamed "Born Ready" live up to his nickname and make the doubters -- this writer included -- shut up?
We're all ready to find out.
Gerowitz is a New York-based television producer, a Cincinnati graduate who once covered the Bearcats and occasional OGS contributor.