2006 Focus: Alex Stepheson

It's not that Alex Stepheson isn't interested in coming up with a school list. It's that the Harvard-Westlake (Calif.) junior big man is doing his research and taking a methodical approach to his recruitment.

Alex Stepheson isn't your typical high-profile high school basketball recruit.

He's modest, unassuming and has numerous other interests off the basketball court. However, on the court, he's not all that different from the other elite players in the Class of 2006.

Stepheson is a 6-9, 210-pound junior at Harvard-Westlake High (Calif.), where he basically played second fiddle to Oregon freshman Bryce Taylor a year ago.

``Last year was good for me because I was able to see and learn from Bryce how to be a team leader and the other upperclassman," said Stepheson, who still managed to average 13 points and 13 boards a year ago. "When to step up and when to share the ball. Last year there weren't high expectations of me and I was able to play my game and learn."

This year, following an impressive summer, Stepheson will be expected to do more than just watch and learn. He'll have to lead and become more aggressive in order to continue the school's success.

``Winning is all that's important," Stepheson said. "I just want to win the state title. My teammates also have the same goal and each one of us is playing strong and working hard."

Stepheson, who likes to pattern his game after Kevin Garnett and Rasheed Wallace, played with Pump ‘N Run in the offseason. He became more aggressive as the summer went along and was able to show the nation his versatility. Stepheson is athletic, works hard on both ends of the floor, is a good rebounder who can also score, but he's still working with his father, Arthur, on his perimeter jumper and his defensive footwork so he can play some small forward at the next level.

``I could have been more aggressive at times, but it was a long summer and it was the first time going through that type of a summer where I traveled a lot and where I played so much and so often," Stepheson said. "It puts a drain on you. I didn't know what to expect and by August, I was really feeling a bit worn."

``I think he traveled and played too much in the summer," Arthur Stepheson said. "By August, he was worn out and had a whole lot less stamina. I think next summer he won't play or travel quite as much and he'll just work on basics."

Stepheson isn't like most of his peers in reciting a list of schools who he's focused on. However, after being prodded for some of the schools that have been recruiting him, Stepheson did mention Arizona, Wake Forest, Kentucky, Duke, North Carolina, Kansas, Stanford, Washington, UCLA, Georgia Tech, Louisville, UConn and Cal.

In fact, Stepheson took a trip to Arizona for Midnight Madness a little more than two weeks ago.

``It was a great experience," he said. "I learned a lot about both the basketball program and the school. I have a lot of respect for Coach (Lute) Olson and all the assistant coaches. The best part of Midnight Madness was watching the dunk contest. Hassan (Adams) did a 360 windmill off a pass to himself."

Stepheson, who works hard in the classroom at a very challenging high school, admitted he grew up a Duke fan, but he also said that won't be a major factor in his ultimate decision.

``My family and I have talked about the process and we're trying to come up with a list of schools – any one of which might be a good place for me," Stepheson said. "We're taking it step by step. I'm looking for a good academic program and a good athletic program with a good coach and a good fit for me. The location doesn't really matter."

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