Some guys highlights are their high school career, or signing their scholarship papers. Not DJ Stephens. The 6'5" swingman from Harker Heights has embraced his opportunity with the Memphis Tigers, becoming a fan favorite in the process. The Texas D-1 Ambassador had a couple of offers, but none were of to his liking so he decided to play as an unsigned senior one more time as he donned the orange and black of D1.
Who can forget the AAUslugfest in Houston between the Houston Hoops & Texas D1 Ambassadors as Stephens traded highlight reel dunks with Brandon "Snap" Peters (Western Kentucky) before a standing room crowd in basketball crazy H Town? The crowd was electric as the two skywalkers went toe to toe with Texas D1 grabbing an OT win. You could tell from this spring event that Stephens was destined for greatness. Always shy, he had a new swagger. (And why not, we measured him as having a 43 inch standing vertical on the electronic jump pad). Memphis photos courtesy Mr. Joe Smith
August of 2010 saw Stephens get offered by Tulsa and others but it wasn't until this time last August that I got a call from old friend, and new Memphis Head Coach Josh Pastner asking for additional character info on Stephens. In a matter of 72 hours, DJ was on the Memphis campus and enrolled in class. He averaged 8 minutes, 2pts & 2 rebounds as a true frosh. But who could shake the vision of his two monster dunks on the road against the Syracuse Orangemen on National TV, or his incredible between the legs windmill dunk at the Memmphis Midnight Madness where none other than judges Rudy Gay, Penny Hardaway & Allen Iverson gave him perfect 10's?
Fast forward to this preseason where the Memphis Tigers went on an exhibition trip to the Bahamas. Stephens had 19 points, 4 rebounds & 3 steals. Last year Stephens was a fuzzy faced frosh playing with Elliott Williams who is now in the NBA. This year Memphis has a ballyhooed recruiting class including McDonald's All Americans Will Barton & Joe Jackson, but don't expect Stephens to be a shrinking violet. You can expect leadership from him in games, practices, as well as the classroom. As he told me this morning:
"Coach, I am having the time of my life. I am doing things through basketball (like his trip to paradise, aka the Bahamas) that I would never experience otherwise."-DJ Stephens
We are all proud of you back home, DJ. I'm sure there are more folks on your bandwagon now. I know Ms Love is proud of you.
Coach Max & The D1 Ambassadors Family