I admit that I often have a limited view of recruiting, but I do have strong feelings about one thing: Purdue should never miss on legacy recruits. If Brian Cardinal and Danielle Bird have any kids with basketball ability there is no excuse for them to not be Boilermakers. Baylen and Bowen Brees need to get recruiting materials now for the 2028 recruiting class. The fact that we missed on Glenn Robinson III and Gary Harris as the sons of former Purdue athletes is like a recruiting miss that stings twice as much (Bob Griese, where did you go wrong in teaching Brian?).
The recruitment of Kendall Stephens, therefore, should have been rather easy, and it was. The son of Everette Stephens of "Three Amigos" fame, Kendall committed to Purdue pretty much as soon as he received an offer. His dad scored over 1,000 points in his Purdue career and was part of one of the most hyped teams in school history. In fact, his team could have probably won a national championship if not for a near epic choke against a Kansas State team in the Sweet 16 it had blown out months before.
That was Everette, however. This is his son, who is trying to make his own legacy as a Boilermaker, and hopefully one that involves a Final Four or two before his time is done. Kendall is the No. 47 recruit nationally according to rivals for the 2013 class and is a solid 4-star prospect. The 6'3" 160 guard is a shooter who is also a four-star according to Scout, which had the following to say about him:
A long armed shooter who is capable of really getting going from deep. Stephens also has a solid feel for how to play and is capable of getting to the rim some off the dribble. With his size, length, and solid athleticism he can play multiple positions on the floor. Now the growth area for Stephens is to get tougher, stronger, and become a better rebounder.
ESPN grades him as a 92 and a solid four-star as well:
Stephens is a long and lanky wing with a 6-9 wing span. He is a true shooting guard with excellent 3 point range. Stephens can spot up on the break, come off screens and space on the side of dribble penetration
It is interesting that ESPN has him at 6'5", while Scout says 6'5" and Rivals says 6'3". The promise of a 6'5" shooting guard is something that should be very desirable for any Purdue fan. We have long lacked a big shooting guard in the 6'5" to 6'6" range that can get his own shot and is deadly from three-point range. Sure, we've had forwards like Robbie Hummel and D.J. Byrd that can step outside and hit the three, but Stephens gives us a unique combination of size and shooting ability at the guard position that can be a major asset.
Stephens definitely projects as a two guard at the next level. His stock has risen significantly since he was initially evaluated, and he has been a stone cold lock Purdue verbal for over a year. We're getting a player that definitely wants to play for Purdue and was raised with Boilermaker values in terms of basketball. We plucked him out of St. Charles, Illinois right out from under Bruce Weber's nose (when he was still at Illinois).
Most evaluations I have seen of Stephens rave about his basketball IQ and his shooting stroke. Both are assets we could use on the 2012-13 team, but we'll have to wait until 2013-14 for him. He wants to be prepared for when he gets here as well:
"I thought it over thoroughly, talked to my family and I knew that Purdue was the best school for me," he said. "Now I can focus on improving my skills so when I'm a freshman in college, I'll be ready to play at that level."
As a sophomore Stephens averaged 18 points per game for St. Charles East. This past season St. Charles East was a modest 13-13 and lost 57-52 to Elgin in the Class 4A Regional finals.Here is a recap from that game, as Elgin entered with only three losses:
Stephens is sometimes criticized for not being physical enough, but his performance against Elgin should dispel some of that talk. The Maroons gave football standout Dennis Moore the assignment to guard him, but Stephens didn’t back down from any contact, even initiating it from time to time to get open. Stephens also grabbed 10 rebounds, helping the Saints win the battle on the boards, 28-23.
“Kendall, man, that’s my former [club] teammate,” (Elgin's Arie) Williams noted. “That’s my dude, but when it comes to this game, we’re enemies. He’s a great shooter. He’s a great scorer. That’s a good team right there we just beat. Now we have to go on to the next step.”
Wisconsin had interest in him, so Bucky's 5th Quarter did a profile on him over a year ago:
The 6'4", 160-lb. shooting guard received the invitation Tuesday after shaking off a mid-game injury to score 28 points in front of numerous assistant coaches at a holiday tournament. Northwestern was the first to offer Stephens around Thanksgiving, and many other Big Ten programs are sure to follow these first two.
It's easy to see why Wisconsin likes Stephens -- dude can shoot. The bloodlines don't hurt either. His father, former Purdue standout Everette Stephens, had a brief stint with the Milwaukee Bucks. Stephens started for East as a freshman, putting up modest (6.3 ppg) numbers, but has blossomed this season.
Illinois Prep Bullseye was also very positive about him:
He shot over the Maine South 2-3 zone all game long and showed us a tremendous shot with good form, a quick release and mechanically flawless follow through, lift and elevation. St. Charles East uses Stephens mostly as a shooter, but trust us when we say that we saw glimpses of his immense potential with other skills. He has great length and disrupts the passing lanes defensively, and he has outstanding athleticism. We are still not sure about his point guard skills, but he can get to the basket and drill fading mid-range shots.
So we're getting a tall shooting guard that can create on the drive, shoot over zones, disrupt passing lanes on defense, and he has the legacy of Purdue blood coursing through his veins? Pardon my excitement, but damn! I can't wait for this kid to get on campus!
Naturally, there are some things that he can work on before he gets to West Lafayette, but with his decision out of the way it is clear that Kendall wants to spend the next year preparing to be an impact from day one. At 6'5" I'd love to see him add a little muscle, just to aid him in getting to the basket. Fortunately, he won't have to be a driving scorer when he gets here. Terone Johnson will be a senior when Kendall arrives, while Rapheal Davis will be a sophomore and Anthony Johnson will be a junior. Ronnie Johnson will also be a sophomore, so he'll have other guards he'll be battling for minutes.
I can see him coming in and having an impact early as a three-point shooter though. That's something this current team lacks going into 2012-13. We lost Ryne Smith, and we don't have that weapon that can be a proven outside sniper short of D.J. Byrd, who will be gone when Kendall arrives. I can see much of Kendall's success relying on the effectiveness of The Law Firm getting to the basket and kicking it out to him as an open shooter. Bryson Scott is also coming in his class as a driving scorer, so if Stephens has a niche as a jump shooter, that will be a very nice asset to pair with some driving guards.
Of course, the news that Kendall can also create his own shot is very good too. Paired with Basil Smotherman, we also have a pair of long, lean defensive players that can be disruptive at the 2 and 3 defensive positions if they are on the court at the same time. I took some heat yesterday for saying Donnie Hale could play the three, but I mentioned that merely out of my desire to experiment and see if a three-big lineup can be effective in spots. We're used to a three-guard lineup, and players like Stephens and Smotherman give us versatility in that regard.
The 2014-15 season we should have quite an assembly of experienced talent, and that is before the three projected open scholarships are filled by the 2014 recruiting class.
Coincidentally, the Final Four in 2015 is in Indianapolis...