Lance Stephenson's Next Stop: NCAA Investigation

Will MossContributor IJune 21, 2009

CORAL GABLES, FL - APRIL 01:  Lance Stephenson #1 of the East Team lays the ball up over Avery Bradley Jr. #11 of the West Team in the 2009 McDonald's All American Men's High School Basketball Game at BankUnited Center on April 1, 2009 in Coral Gables, Florida.  (Photo by Doug Benc/Getty Images)

Rocking back and forth on his heels Lance attacks with a quick cross over blowing by his defender. He stops and pulls up with all the confidence in the world. Swish. But he is jogging back before its even half way to the rim with a scowl on his face ready for the next offensive possession like a true Coney Island player.

You look at his resume and few players can match up. Four-time city champ with Lincoln and the all time leading scorer in New York is just too great to pass up. Scouts traveled across the country to see Lance Stephenson play and try to get a few words with the kid.

Here is a guy who at the age of 12 called out OJ Mayo to a one-on-one game even though Mayo was considered the best high school player in all of America and was three years older than Stephenson. Lance got by him with a couple cross over moves and that is where the legend was born.

But now Stephenson is still unsigned after school after school decided they wanted nothing to do with him.

A player who at one point was deciding between greats such as UCLA, Florida, St. Johns, Kansas, Arizona and Maryland is down to Calapari-less Memphis, Florida International, who won 37 percent of their games in the last three seasons, Europe, and even talked about the Army if all else fails.

“Yes, the Army,” Lance said. “That’s why I’m in the USA 18-and-under Olympic team right now because I want to do a lot for my country.”

Some schools cite his on court demeanor as the problem. The same Coney Island swagger that makes him a scoring machine has scared off teams.

He was suspended from school for five days and missed two games after a fight with a teammate over a girl last season. He was cut from the US under-18 team despite being considered the team’s best scorer. Coach Bob McKillop blamed Lance’s me, me, me attitude.

After Kansas singed Xavier Henry and stopped recruiting Stephenson, Lance was rumored to have added Kansas State to his options just to get back at the Jayhawks.

Other schools blame the fact that he might not even be able to play next season due to rumors of involvement with an agent and a sexual harassment case in which he is accused of groping a 17-year-old girl.

But then there is Lance Sr. The loud mouth dad at all his sons games mocking the opposing team, antagonizing the ref and demanding the coach gives the ball to his son more.

"If it wasn't for his father," one coach says, "I think Lance might have picked a school by now."

He took his son on a trip to the Under Armor factory, another reason he could lose his eligibility, and he allowed the reality show “Born Ready” to follow his kid around. If anyone in the Stephenson family was paid for that he will be out next season.

A Big East assistant coach says his program would like to recruit Stephenson again, but his dad has pretty much stopped them by now.

Now USC is starting to show some interest. Just what a team needs while being investigated for paying players handlers, another player with a sketchy background and a dad who has been accused of accepting cash.

Renardo Sidney was not investigated 'til he committed to Mississippi State so the “Born Ready” series will likely not be looked at by the NCAA until Lance commits.

"The time is ticking," says Sonny Vaccaro, who helped advise the family early in the recruiting process.

"Just get it done with. All Lance Stephenson has to do is go anywhere. Go local, Manhattan, Seton Hall, Hofstra. The reason is the whole family can go watch him play. Then he goes to college, passes classes and he'll have a more wonderful life than anybody reading this story today.

"I would say to them, ‘Go somewhere.'"

But do not expect anything within the next few days. His father announced that they would not be making any decisions until after June 29, when the sexual harassment case will take place.

Here is a guy who as a junior was named to the All-USA boys basketball team, the only non senior to make it.  People say he would be a star in the NBA right now, he has been called “the most productive scorer in the country” and now he is one of two ESPNU Top 100 player left unsigned, the other being Derrick Williams who got out of his LOI from USC 5 days ago.

“All we ask for is for an opportunity for our kid to play basketball, that’s it,” Lance Sr. said. “We only dealt with St. John’s, Maryland and Kansas and...we just want our son to play ball.”

Well then, let him play.