St. John's Pins Redemption Hopes on Brooklyn Baller

But Lance Stephenson is still a long shot

As part of their ongoing effort to climb back into relevance on the college basketball scene, St. John's has pinned their hopes on landing Lance Stephenson of Lincoln High School in Brooklyn.

Stephenson, who is trying to lead Lincoln to an unprecedented fourth straight city title, is the top high school player in New York City and is ranked eighth in the nation by ESPN. If the Red Storm lands him, a 2010 tournament bid becomes a lot more realistic.

Two things are standing in their way, though. First up is the rationale Stephenson gave reporters for his college choice, which he said he'll reveal during the McDonalds All-America Game on April 1.

“I want a coach that’s going to push me, the players surrounding me are good, and I just want to have a chance to win the tournament,” Stephenson said. “So I’m picking by that.”

St. John's might give Stephenson a chance to make the tournament, but win the thing? Kansas and Maryland are his other choices, and they're both a lot closer to cutting down the nets.

The second problem is that Stephenson might not be going to college at all. Writing in The Atlantic, Stefan Fatsis reports that European scouts have approached Stephenson and offered him a chance to play ball without having to worry about going to class. The NBA mandates players wait a year after leaving high school before entering the draft, and the European leagues offer a higher level of basketball along with the chance to make money.

Brandon Jennings, a top player in the 2008 class, is playing in Rome right now, and Stephenson's family told Fatsis that he's considering crossing the pond.

“I think he’d be a better pro right now than a college player,” his father said. “Going overseas, it’s not out of the question.”

Throw in the chance that he won't qualify academically and it might be three strikes and out for St. John's.

Josh Alper is a writer living in New York City and is a contributor to and in addition to his duties for

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