Bloomington, Ind. – Lance Stemler isn't lacking when it comes to motivation.
The 6-8, 210-pound forward arrived in Bloomington in late May, just days after he concluded his coursework at Southwestern Illinois College. There was hardly even a stop off at his Belleville, Ill., home before his arrival on the IU campus.
"I moved here straight from my junior college," Stemler said. "I knew it was important to get a head start in the weight room, get working with the strength coach, and start bonding with the guys on the team."
Stemler is accomplishing each of those feats. He said he's gained back the 12-14 pounds he lost during the 2005-06 season at SWIC, a campaign that saw him average 22.4 points and 6.4 rebounds earning first-team JUCO All-America honors. He's still hoping to add another five to 10 pounds to his frame as well before practice opens in October.
He's also getting acquainted with his new Hoosier teammates during the team's off-season weight training program as well as the open gym workouts in Assembly Hall.
"Open gym has been going really well," Stemler said. "Everyone plays hard, there isn't a lot of bickering or fighting, which I like a lot. Everyone respects one another.
"I spent the first couple of weeks feeling out how everyone plays. Now I'm getting more comfortable and as I get more comfortable, I think I'm playing better and better."
Stemler's contributions will be huge for an Indiana team that needed some frontcourt help after the arrival of Coach Kelvin Sampson in the spring. Sampson got that with the signing of Stemler and 6-6, 245-pound Mike White, a pair of junior college forwards who figure to contribute significantly this fall.
While Stemler's 6'8" frame will enable him to match up with some of the league's bigger frontcourt players, his biggest offensive contributions figure to come from the perimeter, where he's a deft 3-point shooter. A year ago Stemler shot better than 56 percent from the floor, including 39.3 percent from behind the 3-point arc.
That ability to step outside was appealing to Sampson, who was looking for a player who could knock down shots and consequently free up more room for D.J. White on the interior.
"I was brought in to be a complementary player to D.J., someone who could spread the floor," Stemler said. "I think we can complement each other really well. With (White) inside, you have to double him. That gives me an opportunity to get open looks. If they don't double off me, they have to double off someone else, and everyone else on the team can shoot it."
Stemler said he's been impressed with the talent level of the players on the IU roster, ranging from White down to newcomers such as Xavier Keeling and Armon Bassett. He's also been surprised at the passion IU fans around town have for the program, something that serves as motivation for him as well.
"Everybody around town, you can feel it - you can feel they want great things from this program," Stemler said. "That's a big motivation for me every day in the weight room and every day when I go put up shots, that there's that expectation that you want to live up to."
Stemler Settling In
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