It took some time for Lamar Stevens to raise his stature to the high-major level. Albeit a well-respected prospect in the Northeast, he first generated notice on these pages in the 2014 summer. Since then, however, he has become an increasingly popular athlete among both scouts and college coaches.
He first made his name on the basis of athleticism, and nothing about that has changed. By last fall he’d drawn in-school evaluations from Vanderbilt, Indiana, Stanford, Villanova, Temple, Penn State, La Salle, Northwestern and others.
Stevens proceeded through his junior season and into the spring, where in April he notched a lasting impression on some major conference programs. By the end of the month his offer list included Maryland, Indiana, Iowa, Georgia Tech, Villanova and others.
He took another step forward in July. Stevens ranked among the best players at the Lawson/Oladipo Camp, demonstrating the athleticism that put him on the map and showcasing a few new wrinkles. The net effect was that he was among the most impressive players I observed in the month’s second evaluation period.
”I think I’m headed on an upper path,” Stevens said that week. “I’ve just been in the gym working on my game trying to expand my skills. I’ve really been putting up a lot of shots in the gym and am happy with where my game is now and have my confidence.”
The moral of the story is this: Stevens is at his very best when he can get himself on the move. He’s a okay stationary player, but catch-and-shoot really isn’t his style and doesn’t suit his primary talents.
He’s a straight-line driver who does possess some body control at the rim, enabling him to finish through contact better than you might expect. Meanwhile, he ranks among the most explosive finishers in the class off one foot, notable also for the fact that he can dunk through shotblockers. He’s fast in the open court and loves to draw contact.
To wit, Stevens shot 158 free throws in 22 games with Team Final on the EYBL circuit. That’s a remarkable achievement and doesn’t even indicate the extent to which he put opposing big men in foul trouble.
In terms of skills he possesses fairly soft touch from medium-range, albeit with a slower-than-ideal release. He’s also a gifted passer who, despite his reputation for one-speed aggression, keeps his head up and locates open teammates.
He’s a tough defender as well and likely will be able to defend both wing and power forwards at the college level.
At 6-6, he’s small for power forward and thus has faced size questions his entire prep career. While offensively he possesses the quickness to play on the perimeter, he needs to improve his control dribbling — he’s very, very right-handed — and also force fewer drives. He shot just 44 percent from the field for Team Final, and he’s definitely capable of better.
Beyond that, he must expand his shooting range. Wise defenders know to play off him, because he attempted just three long bombs in his 22 Team Final outings.
The easy comparison for Stevens is former Maryland star Dez Wells, and it’s no coincidence that the Terrapins have made him a prized target. Wells brought many of the same strengths and weaknesses to the court as Stevens, and obviously he translated his style just fine to college.
Stevens isn’t quite as fast in the open floor as Wells but is a little bigger, and he’s also a superior jump shooter at the same age. We don’t like to go overboard with comparisons, but clearly he could enjoy a terrific career at a major conference program.
Beyond that, he’ll have to smooth out the rough edges in order to impress NBA scouts. Wells did not get drafted this past spring for the same reasons Stevens may not, but again, he has a little more to work with in terms of height and perimeter ability at the same stage.
For 2016-17 and ensuing years, the long-term challenges shouldn’t pose much of a hindrance. The college game struggles to handle players who fit Stevens’ talents, as most everyone 6-7 or taller wants to play a finesse style. He’ll drive those players crazy and help his team win a lot of games.
For now, that’s more than sufficient to justify his offers and top-100 national ranking.