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Lance to join Big East Bearcats

The waiting is over.

After months of speculation, Lance Stephenson has found a new home: Cincinnati, a school that entered his prolonged recruitment only recently.

Lincoln coach Dwayne (Tiny) Morton told FiveBoroSports.com that Stephenson had verbally committed to the Big East school early in the day Tuesday and by the evening Cincinnati sent out a press release confirming Stephenson, the McDonald’s All−American and all−time leading scorer in New York State history, would soon be a Bearcat and has signed a financial aid agreement.

“Lance has terrific talent as a basketball player and is also a fierce competitor on the court,” Cincinnati coach Mick Cronin said in a statement. “His desire to win will help us compete for a Big East championship. As a big guard, Lance brings playmaking ability and versatility to our team, along with his talent for scoring. We look forward to getting Lance here for summer school and building our team for the upcoming season.”

Stephenson, the last player in ESPN’s top 100 recruits for 2009 to sign, nor his father, Lance Stephenson Sr., were available for comment.

There are questions surrounding the 6−foot−5, 200−pound Stephenson, who led Lincoln to a PSAL−record four city championships, related to a court date for sexual assault and his amateur status.

Stephenson, who reportedly visited Cincinnati with his family over the weekend, playing pickup basketball with members of the team and touring the campus, isn’t the first Coney Island phenom Cronin has established a rapport with. As an assistant coach for Louisville, he got Sebastian Telfair to commit to the Cardinals, except he went straight into the 2004 NBA Draft instead of college. That isn’t an option for Stephenson since the NBA has a mandatory age limit.

Morton said Cronin asked him about Stephenson his junior year. The campus isn’t necessarily knew to him, either – he played at the Fifth Third Arena a few occasions with the Juice All−Stars in the Adidas It Takes 5ive showcase.

Talent evaluator Tom Konchalski said Stephenson should help Cincinnati, who has won more games in each of Cronin’s three seasons, immediately. He will join talented guard Deonta Vaughn and imposing forward Yancy Gates, in addition to fellow freshmen Sean Kilpatrick, a White Plains product, and Jaquon Parker.

“I think he’ll come in and be a primary scorer,” Konchalski said. “There’s the opportunity for him to make that kind of impact. He’s not going to need to make too much of a physical adjustment; he comes in with a man’s body. He has natural scoring instincts. He’s a born scorer. His great win is his will. He plays with a ferocious determination.”

Stephenson still has unresolved issues. On July 15, he and former teammate, Darwin (Buddha) Ellis, will be in Brooklyn Criminal Court for a sexual assault trial, which was adjourned Monday, stemming from an Oct. 3 incident in which they allegedly groped a 17−year−old female outside of Lincoln. The NCAA could also investigate whether he or anyone from his family received money for the Internet reality show, “Born Ready,” that chronicled his life.

Stephenson was reportedly set to commit to Kansas on March 31, just prior to the McDonald’s All−American game, before Memphis coach John Calipari left for Kentucky. Calipari’s move enabled fellow All−American Xavier Henry of Putnam City, Okla., to get out of his letter of intent and he eventually landed with the Jayhawks, taking their final scholarship.

In the last eight weeks, Stephenson has been tied to Arizona, Memphis, St. John’s and Maryland. He took official visits to St. John’s, Kansas and Maryland.

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