High Majors Pursue JUCO Combo Forward

Schools pursue JUCO talent

Lance Stemler's magical sophomore campaign at Southwestern Illinois College in Belleville, Ill., hasn't stopped this spring.

The cerebral 6-7, 205-pound combination forward from Columbia, Ill., was recently accorded first team NJCAA All-American honors after leading the Blue Storm to a sixth place finish at the NJCAA Tournament last month.

Now Stemler is reaping the rewards of his sophomore campaign, and a number of high major programs have jumped into his recruitment.

SWIC Asst. Coach Steve Campo told hsnewyork.scout.com that Stemler will take three more official visits over the next week and a half before rendering a decision.

Indiana Head Coach Kelvin Sampson was in Belleville on Tuesday to evaluate Stemler and the Hoosiers have tendered a scholarship offer, Campo said.

Marquette Head Coach Tom Crean, who scouted Stemler last month at the NJCAA Tournament, was in Belleville last night to make an in-school presentation to Lance and his parents.

Stemler took his first official visit to Nebraska (Apr 13-15) late last week.

"Lance liked his trip to Lincoln," Campo said. "While it was very informative, he just wants to take the other visits so that he can make the most informed decision possible."

Stemler is slated to participate in a JUCO All-Star game this weekend down at Kilgore College in Texas. Following that game, Stemler will take a whirlwind of visits, starting with a trip to Marquette (Apr. 23-25).

Campo said that Stemler will then visit nearby Saint Louis University (Apr. 26-27) and Indiana (Apr. 28-29) before arriving at a decision. Minnesota, George Washington and Wyoming are in the mix should Stemler opt to take a fifth official visit.

"Indiana watched him work out on Tuesday, and they loved him," Campo said. "They said they need a shooting four man, because with that big kid they have, they want to be able to spread the floor on people."

Stemler is a forward who can swing between the perimeter and post. Offensively, he's a smooth jump-shoojump-shooter with range beyond the three-point arc and a deft passer, yet defensively, he's more suited for the post.

Stemler averaged 21.9 points and six rebounds per game for SWIC in 2005-2006. Interestingly, it was his second tour of duty at the junior college just outside of St. Louis that bore dividends for the Southern Illinois native.

As a qualifier out of high school, Stemler enrolled at Southwestern Illinois for the 2003-2004 school year. A broken wrist kept him on the sidelines that season, but Bradley University in Illinois signed him and hoped to have him for the next four years.

However, Stemler played sparingly at Bradley in 2004-2005, and the depth chart didn't look any more promising with the return of Missouri Valley Conference player of the year candidate Marcellus Somerville in 2005-2006.

Ironically, Somerville began his college career at Iowa before bouncing to Southwest Illinois in 2002-2003. He then moved onto Bradley where he enjoyed an outstanding three-year career for the Braves.

"After sitting out my first year at SWIC, I didn't want to sit around another year and play behind Somerville," Stemler reflected.

Stemler said he was excited for the success that Bradley had this past season. The Braves reached the Sweet 16 before falling to Memphis.

The fact that Stemler has already been through the recruiting process should aid him in making a sound choice the second time around.

"I think a lot depends on what system a team runs," Campo explained. "I think if he picks a place that has a structured offense with picks and screens, he should be fine."

Stemler hasn't had much time to rest since the Blue Storm dropped a close decision to Howard College of Texas late last month in the NJCAA Tournament's fifth place game.

In between personal workouts and those in front of college coaches, he's fielded a ton of phone calls from admiring suitors. He's formed some definite opinions about the schools in hot pursuit.

"Marquette and Nebraska were the first two big schools to come after me and build a strong relationship," Stemler said. "I've spoken to Coach Crean and got to see the way they play on TV, and I think they see me fitting in there like Steve Novak did."

Stemler also cited a strong relationship with the coaching staff at Saint Louis. If staying close to home becomes a top priority, then the Billikens could steal Stemler away from the plethora of high major programs now trying to sign him.

"Basically, I am looking for a place where I can fit in," Stemler said. "I am the type of player who needs to be in a structured system to excel."

"Above all," he concluded, "I just have to make sure it's the right fit."

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