Lance Stephenson, the leading scorer in New York high school history, signed a financial aid agreement with Cincinnati Tuesday. Since he has not inked a National Letter of Intent, other colleges can still recruit him and the commitment is non-binding.
A 6-foot-6, 195-pound guard who led his high school team to four consecutive New York City titles, Stephenson was considered by many college coaches and talent evaluators to be the top prospect in the class of 2009.
"As a big guard, Lance brings playmaking ability and versatility to our team, along with his talent for scoring," Cincinnati coach Mick Cronin said in a statement. "We look forward to getting Lance here for summer school and building our team for the upcoming season."
In late March Stephenson seemed ready to commit to Kansas before postponing his decision while at the McDonald's All-American Game. Maryland, St. John's and Memphis were mentioned as potential landing spots, but the Bearcats did not enter the picture until recently. Last weekend, Stephenson visited the campus and played against current Bearcats.
Neither Stephenson, nor his father, Lance Sr., returned phone calls seeking comment.
"This has to be one of the longest, lingering processes for an elite player in history," said Tom Konchalski, a talent evaluator who has followed recruiting for more than four decades.
Stephenson's stock steadily dropped throughout his senior season. On the court, his leadership skills were questioned as he often clashed with teammates. Earlier this year he was charged with sexual assault for groping a female student near a bus stop. The case has been postponed twice, and Stephenson is next scheduled to appear on July 15.
His troubles have often overhsadowed his exciting style of play. He faced suspensions for behavioral issues and also clashed with teammates throughout his tenure under Lincoln coach Dwayne Morton. Billed as the next great player to hail from Coney Island's rough-and-tumble neighborhood, Stephenson said all along that he wanted to attend college outside New York City. Cronin helped sign Sebastian Telfair while an assistant at Louisville.
"He's a great scorer with a will to win," Konchalski said of Stephenson. "Cincinnati also benefits with an impact recruiting name coming to campus."