'[Stepheson]'s Stronger Than Everybody'

Alex Stepheson's height is one aspect that sets him apart from most high school basketball players. But the 6-foot-10, 230-pound post player also has a major advantage in the strength department.

"I think he's so athletic and so strong," Harvard-Westlake's head coach, Greg Hilliard, said. "You're not going to believe how strong he is and the work he does in the weight room. We have a full time strength coach all the way through high school."

The North Carolina signee is working with Mike Durand, who used to be the Oakland Raiders trainer prior to working at Harvard-Westlake. Durand is really pushing Stepheson in the weight room and, according to Hilliard, he even has his own section in their weight room.

"He's especially attracted to the weight room and has his own little station with the squat rack and the clean and jerk," Hilliard said about Stepheson. "Nobody else is allowed on that station.

"Some people that have come by to watch say he's about two years ahead of a high school player as far as weight training experience and strength. I just think he's stronger than everybody."

Stepheson's muscle and power in the paint – not to mention the bounce that helps make him such a good rebounder and shotblocker - has his high school team on an 11-game winning streak and an overall record of 18-3. The past few games he has been on an absolute tear putting up high point totals and grabbing every rebound in site.

"We just played our number one league rival in a fairly close game and he got 32 points and 21 rebounds," Hilliard said. "He was about as dominant as a high school player can be with several very impressive dunks and a break away windmill dunk."

Stepheson is relatively skilled in the paint and has a knack for rebounding. Since the New Year began he's grabbed over 20 rebounds in three different games. In the same time span he's scored over 20 points on five different occasions.

Hilliard attributes Stepheson's rebounding ability to his athleticism, strength and work ethic.

"He's incredibly athletic with a great wing span and has the ability to snatch the one handed rebound over the top of people with out any contact," Hilliard said. "If rebounding could be an ESPN highlight he'd be on it every night."

This isn't the first time Harvard-Westlake High School has produced a high-major big man. Jason and Jaron Collins both were Wolverines and even had the team ranked 4th in the country. Though Hilliard said Stepheson has more athleticism than the two twins he declined to comment on who was the best of the three.

"Alex is more athletic and makes a lot more dunks and maybe if I had two Alex's on the same team I could compare what Jason and Jaron did together while they were here," the coach said.

Hilliard was very complimentary of Stepheson, but he did say that he has a tendency of playing to the level of the competition.

"He needs to develop that necessity of playing hard every minute," Hilliard said. "He has improved that a great deal. He's not being pushed in a lot of games here which is probably true of all of the good high school players across the country."

Stepheson is one of six players that signed with North Carolina in the class of 2007. Roy Williams, who already has Tyler Hansborough dominating the paint in Chapel Hill, will also bring in two other big men in Brandan Wright and Deon Thompson.

With so many guys battling for playing time in the post, Hilliard believes that Stepheson will have to work very hard, but he thinks it'll be difficult for the Tar Heeks to keep him off the floor.

"I think there's no doubt that anyone that works that hard and consistently gets over 20 rebounds a game and blocks shots and plays defense like he does will find a way on the court," Hilliard said.

"Being a coach myself I know that the public is generally attracted to the guys that score a ton of points," he continued. "But the coaches are for some reason attracted to the guys who play defense and rebound for you and they usually find their way on to the court."

Stepheson's high school career is nearing an end. He only has six regular season games left until the CIF State Basketball Tournament – after which he'll assuredly be back in the weight room, training and preparing for his arrival in Chapel Hill.

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