Lance Stephenson donning a uniform for the St. John’s Red Storm next season could become a reality. With Oklahoma City swingman Xavier Henry -considered by many to be the nation’s number one prep player- committing to Kansas, that could open the door for the Red Storm to land Stephenson.
Kansas was one of Stephenson’s top three choices along with Maryland and the Red Storm. Henry’s committment to the Jayhawks would mean a fight for playing time if Stephenson goes there. With Stephenson hoping to be a “one-and-done” player, coming off the bench or playing less than starter minutes isn’t going to cut it.
So what could Stephenson’s arrival mean for St. John’s? For one, it automatically puts the Red Storm back on the recruiting map. St. John’s hasn’t had a primetime player since Ron Artest and has lost out on all of the city’s top recruits the last five or six years.
It could also cement coach Norm Roberts’ future with the program. With every key player back, including Anthony Mason who missed the season with a foot injury, St. John’s becomes an immediate player in the Big East. St. John’s finished the season 16-18. A healthy Mason would’ve meant anywhere from 3 to 5 more victories.
Add Stephenson and Mason to a junior-laden team that includes Paris Horne, D.J. Kennedy, Sean Evans, Rob Thomas, Malik Boothe and Justin Burrell and you have what should be a contender.
Before anyone gets their hopes up we need to do a reality check. As great as Stephenson was leading the Railsplitters to four straight PSAL City championships and two Federation titles, we can’t forget about Felipe Lopez. I know Lopez is still a sore subject with some St. John’s fans, but in the last 20 years he was the most hyped high school player in New York City.
During the 1994 McDonald’s All-American game one television analyst said: “If there wasn’t Michael Jordan, you’d be saying Felipe Lopez”. Talk about putting pressure on someone. A two-ton anvil couldn’t have applied more pressure.
This isn’t to say Stephenson can’t or won’t be a great player. But he is going to have an entire city watching his every move if he goes to St. John’s. In high school he handled the pressure and the media like a pro.
He has his coach Dwayne “Tiny” Morton and Lincoln athletic director Renan Ebeid to thank for that. Both have a lot of experience dealing with the hype going back to Sebastian Telfair’s high school days and have undoubtedly prepared Stephenson for what he is going to face.
But that was high school. His life, which has been a partially open book since his freshman year at Lincoln, will be open to the country the day he sets foot on the floor at Carnesecca Arena.
Good luck Lance, because it doesn’t get any easier.