Stepheson Primed to Compete

Alex Stepheson is the strongest and arguably the best defender of North Carolina's incoming freshmen post players that arrived in Chapel Hill this past weekend. But there are a few other things that his high school coach thinks set him apart from the players he'll be competing with at North Carolina.

And there will be plenty of competition. In the freshmen class alone Deon Thompson and Brandan Wright will join Stepheson as frontcourt players competing for minutes. And when it comes to competition, Alex Stepheson is at his best.

"I think his work ethic and his effort to make himself a better player, which is something that you can't teach, is going to carry him well there," said Greg Hilliard. "He'll rise to the level of whatever he's competing with and if he's not there yet he'll go back to the drawing board to get there."

Hilliard, Harvard-Westlake's coach, said Stepheson's work ethic is among the best he's ever seen. That explains why the 6-10 power forward is as chiseled and strong as they come.

"He's hitting the weight room like crazy. He's been in every single day since the day after the season was been over. He's already added some pounds and some strength. He's upped his maxes in every lift and he's up to 235 now and he's very, very cut and solid."

Stepheson's strength and defensive tenacity are the two assets that could earn him significant minutes his freshman year. One of his best defensive efforts was in the nationally-televised Roundball Classic earlier this year against the best big man in the 2006 class, Greg Oden.

"I think he showed himself and others that he can be very physical in the post," Hilliard said about his former player's performance against Oden. "I think that makes him able to play both positions at the college level. But I think what Coach [Roy Williams] must have noticed is that without a doubt he can bring him in for defense to lean on 7-footers and be effective against them."

While Stepheson's primarily known as a defensive weapon, his offensive is steadily improving. His post moves are getting better and he's perfecting a go-to move inside.

"His skills he's working all the time on his offensive game and he's improved his range and selection and he's equally strong from either side with the jump hook."

With Stepheson, it's all about effort. He tries to out work his competition and that's another reason he's got the potential to be a prime time player at North Carolina.

"He's very big on the little things like the weight room and getting in shape so he can compete at day one from the start," Hilliard said. "He'll give himself an opportunity to make some playing time for himself."

Alex Stepheson Profile

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