“Admiration and familiarity are strangers”
The leading scorer in New York state history. Led the Lincoln High team to four city championships in four years. Built like a tank at 6’5, with scoring ability, great court vision and a unique feel for the game, Lance Stephenson accomplished all one can do on the high school basketball level.
Forget about, “Born Ready”, forget about Stephon Marbury, Sebastian Telfair and even Jesus Shuttlesworth. The Under Armour tour, sexual assault case and the dismissal from the U18 USA Team can not be forgotten or ignored, but for a few minutes put those most recent memories in the rear view.
People tend to love success, to then only tear it down and watch it collapse away. Lance Stephenson was discovered before he became a teenager and his name was at the forefront of high school basketball for the past five years. Over time when you hear and see about one so often, you begin to pick out the weaknesses, you look for why he might fail, instead of why he will succeed. For comparison, OJ Mayo was deemed a selfish, arrogant player headed to USC and into the NBA, thoughts changed as those who once fell in love with his game, fell in it right all over again.
We will see that with Lance Stephenson this year, as long as he leaves his past troubles behind. They are legitimate concerns, from the sexual assault case to having his own reality show on the Internet. Perhaps we’ve just seen too much of Lance and only the negative lately. Perhaps, his father, “Stretch” became too involved and got in the way of what was most apparent all this time, the kid is a damned good basketball player.
We’ve long forgotten now about Lance standing toe to toe with OJ Mayo at ABCD camp. The reported 5:30 am workouts on Coney Island, which have included running two miles in sand, 500 push ups and sprinting up 15 flights of stairs in a Coney Island housing project. How thought? Lance still was at the forefront winning state titles and breaking records, outdoing what Telfair and Marbury once accomplished.
“The aspects of things that are most important for us are hidden because of their simplicity and familiarity”
At 6’5 220, Lance can seemingly play the 1-3 with ease, his handle, jumper and passing ability have been well advanced for his age for years now. Selfishness is an issue he must rid himself of on the court, as well as the bickering. When he does, he can match any player in the country in his class, yes, even John Wall. Does his game translate as well to the NBA? No, but then again, it’s not about that. Lance will offer Cincinnati a play maker to go next to Deonta Vaughn and take pressure off he and Yancy Gates. If Mick Cronin can channel his new stars abilities into a team focus and concept, the sky is the limit. This is not some egotistical player that has only looked out for self over the years, Lance’s ability to conform into a team game and find his spots has forever shown as a strength of his game.
“Here I am again. And the familiarity feels more uncomfortable than comfortable. It’s time to make a change. And, now, I have what we need to make it.”
Lance could have found his way to Queens and played for the local Johnnies, where he instantly could have become their top player and leading scorer. At UC, neither may be guaranteed this coming season. At home, there would have been plenty of distractions from family and friends, to the local media that has grown familiar with Lance. In Ohio, there still will be media surrounding Lance, as there would be in Montana, but all else there will be is basketball. What gained him his fame will be most prevalent. He can be a piece to the puzzle, a piece to push the Bearcats into the NCAA Tournament. Why was it Mick Cronin that took the shot? Perhaps all other coaches did indeed back out of the sweepstakes, looking to avoid any trouble. They may turn out to be correct, and Cronin gets burned by this chance. What is Tyreke Evans known for more currently, the shooting in which he was involved and his at times selfish high school play, or becoming a NBA lottery pick while leading Memphis to a terrific season?
“You need to have a redesign because familiarity breeds a kind of complacency.”
Is it wrong to offer an 18 year old a shot, to make good on his wrongs? Lance has been given his opportunity, and must make good on it. For he, his family, for New York, for Mick Cronin and the UC program. That pressure has always been there, something Lance has embraced time and time again.
But for once, New York do not anticipate and force the next star of Coney Island and the NYC blacktop. For his father, Stretch, enjoy the ride, Lance’s talent has and always will speak for itself. Mick Cronin, take a stand, do not let a one and done freshmen run wild. Teach, coach, inspire. You have a wonderful talent on your hands, if you can have him see the bigger picture and team basketball it will only be enhanced. For the basketball world and followers, take a look at what Lance is and always has been on the court. The off court incidents will take care of themselves, for right or wrong. Lastly, for Lance. Understand what is right, the world is at his feet, he must decide on and off the court how to approach every day life and find success. Something he has done and we have forgotten. Odds are, he will remind us.