Homecoming Ruined for Cincinnati Bearcats' Lance Stephenson

James CarlierContributor IJanuary 19, 2010

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)
Doug Benc/Getty Images

The University of Cincinnati Men’s Basketball team traveled to Madison Square Garden on January 13, 2010 to compete against a conference rival St. Johns. 

One of the Bearcats top recruits of 2009, Lance Stephenson, is the state of New York’s all-time leading high school scorer with 2,946 points passing Sebastian Telfair, who was the 13th overall pick in 2004 NBA draft and now plays for the Minnesota Timberwolves.   

During his senior year he averaged 28.9 points, 10.2 rebounds, 3.9 assists at Abraham Lincoln High School in Brooklyn, New York, to earn Class AA New York State Sports Writers Association (NYSSWA) player of the year honors and a three-time NYSSWA first-team selection throughout high school. 

Lance grew up in a tough neighborhood surrounded by violence and poverty, yet he has still managed to stay on track and set himself up to have an incredible future with the Bearcats.

The 6’5” 210 lbs. forward from Brooklyn was the  No. 12 ranked ESPNU 100 basketball recruit of 2009 and rated No. 4 ranked of shooting guards.  He received a scout’s grade of 97/100 meaning:

94-97: High-major prospect
Player has the potential to significantly contribute as a freshman for most national programs. He could be a three- or four-year starter and have an opportunity for all-league honors.

Towards the end of his senior year he told the media his top three picks were Kansas, Maryland, and St. Johns.  He couldn’t go to Kansas because there wasn’t a scholarship available.  Stephenson had to cancel a recruiting event at Kansas because of his court appearance for charges of sexual abuse in the third degree, forcible touching, menacing, and harassment after groping the girl’s breast and buttocks of a  17 year old female student at his school.  Stephenson, his basketball teammate Darwin Ellis, and an unnamed minor were arrested.

Every time Lance Stephenson touched the ball he was booed by St. Johns fans because he decided to go to Cincinnati rather than a local college like St. Johns.  “I don’t worry about the crowd.  I just play the game,” Stephenson said.  “You can’t worry about the crowd, what they say or do.”  Stephenson finished with seven points, three assists, five rebounds, six turnovers, one steal, and one block. 

He finished below his season average in scoring, field goal percentage, free throw percentage and three point percentage.  He finished with six out of the 21 Cincinnati turnovers which are more than two times his season average and Bearcats season high. 

Cincinnati came into the game shooting 28.1 percent from behind the arc and finished 0/12 against St. Johns, the first time since March 2002 that Cincinnati failed to make a three-point shot but the Bearcats defeated Memphis in overtime that game. 

St. Johns Dwight Hardy, who went to John F. Kennedy High School in Brooklyn, New York graduating in 2006, went 4-4 from the free throw line in the last 8.5 seconds so secure St. Johns first Big East win this season.  Hardy was a senior when Stephenson was a freshman.  Hardy helped his team to win New York City Championship his junior year before Stephenson helped his team win four straight New York City Championships. 

With 10 seconds left Cincinnati guard Bishop who was inbounding the ball, threw a baseball pass attempting to go to senior guard Deonta Vaughn but was stolen by Hardy.  After Hardy made both free throws tying the game at 50, Stephenson was inbounding the ball, again attempting to pass the ball to Vaughn, and it was stolen by Hardy who was again fouled. 

“I just made a bad decision,” said Stephenson “I thought my man was open, but he (Hardy) got around him and made the steal.”  Hardy made both of his free throws to take the lead 52-50 with seven seconds left in the game.  Vaughn received the ball and his three-point buzzer beater bounced off the rim giving St. Johns their first Big East win of the season.  Hardy finished matching his career high of 19 points, scoring 17 in the second half. 

“It’s a tough loss because wins are so, so hard to come by in Big East basketball,” Cronin said. “You’ve got a game where you’re in control with 10 seconds left. All you’ve got do is get the ball inbounds to Deonta Vaughn and let him go make two free throws and the game is over. We gave the game away.”

The Bearcats lost both home town area games of Stephenson, first against Seton Hall and then St. Johns.  Both teams had players that Stephenson played against in high school and they got their chance to defeat the New York all-time leading high school scorer and succeeded.