While Stephen is obviously a well-rounded player as you can see from his stats, according to Coach Benanti, Stephen is, "a really intelligent youngster and a hard worker who is a throw-back to the players of the past."
An excellent example of his toughness is something that happened to Stephen during one of last year's district tournament games. Coach Benanti said that early in the game, "Stephen suffered a broken nose. We put gauze pads in to stop the bleeding and he did not miss a second of the game."
In fact, according to Stephen, he, "scored 24 points and 12 assists during the game."
What is even more amazing is what he did the next night. "I played with a mask on for the first five minutes," said Stephen. "It was horrible. I had zero points for the first ten minutes of the game. I took the mask off and had like 32 points the rest of the game."
Being tough is not the only thing that coaches from Mississippi State, North Carolina State, SMU, Richmond and South Florida really liked about Stephen. He is also an excellent shooter who, according to his coach, "can do everything offensively. He can shoot the three or drive to the basket. Whatever is given him, he will take."
On top of the above qualities he also, "plays terrific defense," said Coach Benanti. "He plays the top of the zone in our 1-3-1 zone."
Having a dad who coached basketball for 20-plus years and won two Florida state championships has helped him develop another excellent quality and that is having a great understanding of the game of basketball. An example of this, according to Coach Benanti, is his, "uncanny ability to understand what is going on on the court."
With all these traits, it was only a matter of time before college coaches would begin to notice Stephen. And, as Coach Benanti said, it did not take them long because, "college coaches started noticing (Stephen) his sophomore year because he was so poised on the court. They couldn't believe he was only a sophomore."
Mississippi State head basketball Rick Stansbury, who saw Stephen for the first time at the July Nike Camp this past summer, liked Stephen's qualities immediately because, "he watched him most of the summer. That made (Stephen) feel real good," said Coach Benanti.
Stephen went into even more detail about Coach Stansbury following him during the summer. "Coach Stansbury first saw me at the (July, 2001) Nike camp. He followed me to Peach Jam the next week. I played really well there. Then he followed me to Nationals (in Orlando) and I also played really well there. He told me that he fell in love with (my game)."
Stephen said the things that Coach Stansbury specifically liked about his game was, "how I ran the team, how I could make free throws (83% free throw shooter). He also liked how I could create my own shot and how I could knock down the open shot. I guess they liked that I could do things that the old-school point guards could do."
Stephen visited Mississippi State Thursday through Saturday (September 20-22) and committed a couple of days ago.
Stephen chose Mississippi State over North Carolina State (a school that was in Stephen's house the day before he committed to MSU), SMU, Richmond and South Florida.
He explained why he chose Mississippi State over the other schools.
"When I visited (State) I really liked it," said Stephen. "I came in September 13th when State played South Carolina. It was cool. Mississippi was a lot different than the stereotype that you hear about. It was awesome. I loved it there. The players were all really nice and pretty cool. The food was really good. I had never had such good food in my entire life. The Hump, the weightroom, everything was awesome. The people there were much nicer (than they are in Florida)."
Another reason that he chose Mississippi State was because he, "wanted to play in the SEC because it is the best conference in the country from top to bottom. In the SEC there are no cupcakes."
Stephen, who is already 6-foot-2 tall and will not be 18 years old until December 16th, has an older brother who is 6-foot-5. His dad is 6-foot-4. He believes he may grow another inch or two in height before he is finished growing.
Stephen joins previous commitments 6-4 wing guard Sam Richardson of Hinds AHS and 6-8 forward Kei Madison of Okaloosa Walton Community College.
Gene Swindoll is the owner of Gene's Page, the unofficial source for Mississippi State sports on the internet. The URL for Gene's Page is http://mississippistate.theinsiders.com. You can contact him by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.