Lance Stemler is on his way to Bloomington.
For the time being, though, it's only for an official visit to the IU program. The 6-8, 205-pound forward from Southwestern Illinois College left for Bloomington after classes Thursday, the third and final stop for the first-team Junior College All-America in the last week.
This past Sunday and Monday Stemler visited Tom Crean's Marquette program, followed by a two-day trip to nearby St. Louis University earlier this week. After he returns from this weekend's stop over in Bloomington, a decision should come soon afterwards between that trio and Nebraska.
"Next week, he's going to make his decision between those four schools," said Southwestern Illinois College Coach Jay Harrington.
All four programs are hoping to get a commitment from a player whose stock has risen exponentially during the past season. Considered a mid-major prospect in the fall according to Harrington, a big 2006 season has changed all of that.
"As the dominos fell, and more dominos were needed, his stock went up," Harrington said. "In November he was a mid-major, but as he kept playing and we kept winning, he got to low-high major, and then the next thing I know, he's got Indiana, Marquette, Nebraska and Minnesota jumping all over him."
A native of Belleville, Ill., Stemler helped lead Southwestern Illinois College to a 34-4 record this past season and a No. 6 national ranking. Stemler ranked sixth nationally in scoring with 22.0 points per game and shot nearly 43 percent from behind the 3-point arc.
While there's more to his game than the 3-point shot, Harrington says that's the first thing that jumps out to most recruiters.
"Most of them like that ability to stretch the defense," Harrington said.
But Stemler has more weapons than just the deep ball. In fact, he can prove to be a match-up problem for both big men and small forwards.
"He has a jump hook inside, right hand or left hand, so he can go at people inside," Harrington said. "When he plays against bigger guys that are athletic, if he can get them posted for just a second he can get to the jump hook, he's pretty good. Then, if the four man isn't used to guarding someone on the perimeter, watch out."
It was that sort of versatility that allowed Stemler to have a couple of big games against one of the nation's top-ranked junior college big men, Georgia-bound Takais Brown. In three matchups with the 6-8, 245-pound Southeastern Illinois College big man, Stemler averaged 28.0 points per game while Brown averaged just 12.7.
Those sort of performances not only landed him on the first-team All-America team, but also on the wish lists of a handful of prominent Division I schools, including Indiana.
"I was told by many, many coaches that he was one of the most skilled, if not the most skilled, 6-7 ½, 6-8 kids in the country in junior college," Harrington said.
Besides his contributions on the floor, Harrington says Stemler is also a special person off the floor as well, someone who has had a very significant impact on not only the program, but the people around it as well.
"I've been in junior college for 30 years and there are very few kids that come through junior college like this kid, not just as a player, but as a kid," said Harrington, whose daughter dates Stemler. "Sometimes there are kids that leave an impression on you because of the type of kid they are, and I think that's one of the things he brings to the table that a lot of junior college kids don't bring."
With Indiana's needs on the frontline Stemler would appear to be a good catch for Coach Kelvin Sampson's squad, which has already received a signed letter of intent from another junior college forward in 6-6, 235-pound Mike White.
It appears the Hoosiers are running neck-and-neck with each of his other three finalists, and Harrington said there are a couple of things that will likely figure into his standout's decision.
The first is the sort of relationship he can develop with the head coach, and feeling comfortable he'll get a good shot to play in their system.
"If a coach brings him in and he has two bad games, he's trying to figure out and make sure he'll still be in the mix," Harrington said. "He had two bad games with us, and we didn't throw the baby out with the water. We kept him playing and he just became a magical player."
The second important factor is academics. Stemler arrived at Southwestern Illinois College as a full qualifier, and he's looking for which school can best prepare him for life after basketball.
"He wants to be in finance or accounting," said Harrington. "He wants to a good base where can get a job afterwards."
Another top priority for Stemler is getting his decision behind him. While some enjoy the opportunity to bounce around the country on official visits, Harrington said his standout is ready to have the process behind him.
"He told me he wants it over," Harrington said. "It's an extremely tough time, and it's going to be a tough decision."
Stemler Heads to IU For Official Visit
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