Lance Stephenson told more than one Cincinnati reporter yesterday that he would be returning for his sophomore season.
"I don't think I have had an NBA season this year so the best choice is for me to stay," Stephenson said. "I don't think I've struggled. It hasn't been hard. I just think I just have to keep going to the gym and working on my stuff."
"I expected when I came to Cincinnati that is was going to be tough each game. I'd have to come focused. Sometimes you are going to have a bad game. Every game, you're not going to play good. Some of the games I had, I wasn't expecting it. But I think it is going to come to me."
It is probably the right decision for Stephenson.
He isn't exactly being projected as a lottery pick right now. Draft Express has him as the 39th pick; NBADraft.net has him at 41st. He's also correct when he says he hasn't had an NBA season. Stephenson is averaging just 11.2 ppg and 4.8 rpg on the season, numbers that drop to 10.7 and 4.6 in Big East play. He's shooting just 19.6% from three. He has more turnovers than assists on the season.
Perhaps the most telling stat is from his last two games. Stephenson has played just 31 minutes, going 2-9 from the field for six points, in the Bearcat's last two games, both losses to fellow bubble teams.
Seeing a potential draft pick struggle and ride the bench during the most critical games of the season are not exactly confidence-inducing performances for GM's.
Stephenson has the talent. He has a knack for being able to score, with a dash of the NYC moxie that allows him to believe he can score every time down the floor. But Stephenson still needs to learn how to best utilize that talent. He needs to figure out when to simply find his shots within the system and when he needs to takeover. He is still learning what is a good shot and what isn't; what is a smart pass and what isn't.
Its a difficult transition to go from schoolboy legend and New York state's all-time leading scorer to just a piece of the puzzle.
And hopefully he realizes that he needs to go back to school and avoid to succumbing to the NBA's temptation like Lenny Cooke, Felipe Lopez, or Sebastian Telfair.
The only problem?
I'm not buying it yet.
Just like I didn't buy it when Manny Harris said he was coming back for his senior season earlier this year.
And its nothing that has to do with Stephenson being "Born Ready". Remember, when talking about college basketball players, we are still dealing with kids. While they may be athletically gifted, talented, and much larger than the normal person, these are still 18 and 19 and 20 year olds going through the same thing that you went through at that age.
Stephenson is coming off of two bad performances where he didn't get a lot of minutes and Cinci lost, putting their bubble hopes in serious jeopardy. Its only human for him to be upset or to lose a little confidence in himself and his ability.
But what happens if "Born Ready" shows up at MSG two weeks from now, averages 25 ppg, and leads the Bearcats to the Big East Tournament semi's? What happens if he actually leads this team into the tournament, where he goes for 30 against Evan Turner?
I'm not saying that's going to happen.
I don't know the future.
All I'm saying is lets wait until the end of the season before we start talking the NBA Draft and who's in/who's out.