From basketball columnist Charlie Rosen:
Here's what's wrong with high school, AAU, college and professional basketball.
Lance Stephenson is a 6-5 senior at Lincoln HS in New York, and one of the best schoolboy players in the country. But he's strictly a one-man show, who always insists on dominating both the ball and every spectator's attention. Mark him down for lots of points and sensational plays, as well as plenty of ill-advised shots and turnovers. Plus, every mistake he makes is somebody else's fault.
Stephenson was featured on the cover of SLAM when he was 14, was the star of an online reality show, and has been celebrated as the epitome of a hip-hop hoopster.
Which is all well and good, except that the kid also happens to be a jerk.
Last fall, Stephenson was arrested on a Class B misdemeanor charge of sexually harassing a 17-year-old girl on the school grounds. Midway through his junior season, he was involved in an in-school altercation with a teammate that drew blood.
The outcome of his arrest has not yet been decided, but Stephenson was suspended from school for five days (and two ball games) for the fight.
OK, youngsters sometimes get into trouble. But consider his behavior late last month during a game in upstate Glens Falls, N.Y., that matched the Big Apple's public school champions (Lincoln) vs. the private school champs (Rice).
Late in the first half, Stephenson executed a power dunk, but instead of letting go of the rim he chose to swing-and-sway to emphasize his accomplishment. This led to one of the refs' tooting him for a technical foul, which under local rules simultaneously counts as a personal foul — Stephenson's third.
Much to Stephenson's displeasure, his coach, Dwayne Morton, quickly — and appropriately — yanked him from the game. Stephenson responded by loudly cursing the coach — something he's done all season-long — and sitting himself on the floor beyond the end of Lincoln's bench. Still cursing.
Morton has put up with his star's antics for two reasons:
# The kid's extremely talented and has helped Lincoln to four straight PSAL championships.
# Like most very successful high school coaches, Morton is undoubtedly yearning to graduate into a college job.
Rice won the game 77-50, with Stephenson — the state's career scoring leader — scoring only 14 points.
According to reports, if Stephenson doesn't choose to pursue a hefty contract overseas — good riddance! — he'll pick Kansas, St. John's or Maryland as his next stop.
But why would any self-respecting college coach want anything to do with Stephenson?
Especially since he'll only be around campus for one season before declaring for the NBA draft.
Just what the NBA needs — another spoiled, self-indulgent, knuckleheaded player who thinks he already belongs in the Hall of Fame.
So what's wrong with the game?
Too many colleges recruit players on the basis of their talent. Ditto for the NBA's draft process. And hardly anybody recruits/drafts on the basis of a player's character.
The truth that so many recruiters/drafters don't get is that talent and character are not always mutually exclusive.