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The IS 8 Tip-Off Fall Classic final between the Playaz Seniors of New Jersey and the Juice All-Stars took a back seat to Coney Island phenom Lance Stephenson on Sunday afternoon. But it wasn’t for any crossover dribble or slam dunk.
The talented 6-foot-6 senior turned himself into authorities Friday for sexual harassment, it was reported Sunday, and charged with a Class B misdemeanor, after the accusation was made earlier this week.
The Stephenson family issued a series of no comments moments after Stephenson’s Juice All-Stars fell to the Playaz, 96-81, in South Jamaica.
Stephenson, who according to police reports groped a woman's breasts and buttocks over her clothing Oct. 3 while inside the school, struggled against the Playaz.
He has led Lincoln to three consecutive PSAL Class AA city championships, the last two state Federation Class AA crowns and is the subject of an online reality show documentary, BornReady.TV.
“It was real tough, we didn’t expect him to come out that strong,” said Darwin Ellis, his teammate with Juice and at Lincoln.
Stephenson, one of the top-ranked players in the nation, refused to answer three reporters’ questions on several occasions. Agitated after he was asked if he wanted to explain his side of the story, Stephenson said, “I told you I don’t want to talk.”
His father, Lance Stephenson Sr., and mother Bernadette, also grew incensed when approached repeatedly, asking for privacy on the matter. The three reporters were in fact removed from the gym by Pete Edwards, the league’s director, at one point.
“I’m not talking to no one,” Stephenson Sr. said.
The unnamed student who filed the complaint is receiving counseling at Lincoln, Department of Education spokesperson Margie Feinberg said in an e-mailed statement.
“Further disciplinary action is pending the police case,” Feinberg said.
This isn’t the first alleged incident involving the talented swingman. Last January, he was suspended from school five days and missed three games after he was involved in an altercation with then-teammate Devon McMillan, who cut his hand. Stephenson, who was not arrested or charged, addressed that issue almost immediately, telling reporters “it’s a good lesson, it’s not going to happen again.”
Former Lincoln guard Vincent Council, who is prepping a year at the Patterson School in Lenoir, N.C., said it isn’t easy being Lance Stephenson at the Coney Island school.
“Everybody knows who he is,” Council said. “It attracts trouble to him.”
How this could affect Stephenson’s future is unknown. He has been heavily recruited by St. John's, USC, UCLA, Memphis and Kansas.
There is the possibility that he may follow Brandon Jennings, the trend-setting point guard from Compton, Calif., to Europe. Jennings, unsure if he would meet the necessary academic requirements to attend Arizona, signed on with Lottomatica Virtus Roma to play a year of professional basketball overseas before entering the NBA Draft. Stephenson has professed his commitment to play college basketball for at least one season, but that could change.
“I don’t think he’s being recruited heavily enough,” recruiting analyst Tom Konchalski said, “because he is one and done. That’s the one reason St. John’s has such a good chance.”
Konchalski, who publishes the High School Basketball Insider, a recruiting pamphlet for college coaches, is confident this latest question in judgment won’t deter the programs that are in pursuit.
“Schools that need a Lance Stephenson will be skeptical about the charges,” he said.
If the allegations are true, this is nevertheless a step back in Stephenson’s growth. Konchalski said he had noticed better body language on the court and a more mature person off in recent months.
“It’s just a shame,” he said.
©2008 Community Newspaper Group
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