JOHN: Stevenson improving his game this summer

Seeing Perry Stevenson play in Las Vegas last week, it seemed that he had been developing for years rather than months since I saw him in Houston. Stevenson played with more confidence and was smoother offensively than before.

When I first saw Perry Stevenson, it was at the Kingwood Class in Houston, Texas in late April. Stevenson stuck me as a very solid athlete, very capable of developing into a fine Division I basketball player. At 6-foot-9 he had the height. In fact his long arms gave him the wing-spen of a 7-footer. He had the skills, both offensively and defensively. He could hit free throws.

But seeing him play in Las Vegas last week, it seemed that he had been developing for years rather than months. Stevenson played with more confidence and was smoother offensively than earlier. Stevenson has also developed as a rebounder and should become a formidable opponent on the glass. But the area where he may make the biggest imnpact in college is shotblocking. Stevenson can block shots with the best of them and he does not swat the shots into outer space - rather he "taps" them back into play, a quality coaches love. He has the wingspan and the timing neccessary to become one of the best shotblockers and rebounders in his class.

"There's no question he has improved," said James Rix, who describes himself as the head organizer for Stevenson's Louisiana Stars AAU team, "he has matured a great deal. He's better defensively and he's stronger. He doesn't get pushed around as much in the paint."

Rix undoubtedly refers to Stevenson's slight build. At 6-foot-9 Stevenson spreads out only about 200 lbs, about 10 more than when he played in Houston in April. He may have even grown a little.

And Rix's comments seemed to play out in the first game I saw him play. The Delaware Sharpshooters rotated three players between 6-foot-8 and 6-foot-10 on Stevenson trying to wear him down. But the Lafayette, Louisiana native dominated everyone they threw at him and the game became a one-sided affair as a result. At one junction he blocked a shot on three consecutive defensive sets. And in the same time frame he scored three straight buckets, all with the same offensive move that Sharpshooter defenders simply could not handle.

"He is tough for anyone to handle in the paint," remarked Stars' coach Dexter Washington, "with those long arms, if we can get the ball into him in the paint, he can usually shoot over just about anybody short range. He has really gained a lot of confidence in his offense. He can take it to the glass or pull up for a little jumper."

Stevenson also excels at establishing position on the paint, receiving a high pass in the post, spinning and shooting, all in one fluid motion.

"I have worked on that quite a bit," Stevenson said, smiling, "I am trying to be a little like Shaq and Kevin Garnett, though as you can see I have some filling out to do before I can be like Shaq. (laughs)."

In reality he has some filling out to do to become Garnett's size as well, but that analogy is much closer.

So, what is going on with Stevenson's recruiting?

"Not much right now to say," Stevenson said, "I am just soaking it all in until school starts. I have not trimmed a list or anything like that. I have been getting interest from a lot of schools and more seem to be popping up."

Stevenson mentioned that Missisippi St., and now UCONN have been calling, adding to the list that already includes Baylor, LSU, Georgia Tech, Texas Tech, Texas and Kentucky. Stevenson will not say who is his leader but seems to speak longer about Kentucky, "They are a strong consideration. They play on TV a lot, like Duke and North Carolina and they seem to be playing at a high level every year like those schools. Coach Hanson has come to see me play here. I think they are interested."

So would Perry want to visit Kentucky?

"Most definitely," he said.

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