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Young and the Restless: Stephene Dishes It
In January, Basketball Times, a publication covering collegiate basketball for over 25 years, ranked Liberty's 2008 recruiting class at No. 48 in the nation.
The Basketball Times ranked its Top 50, and Liberty joined No. 26 Xavier, No. 31 Rhode Island, No. 36 Fresno State, No. 36 New Mexico, No. 36 St. Louis, No. 41 Dayton, No. 50 Hofstra and No. 50 Gonzaga as the only schools that are not a part of a BCS football power conference.
After the Basketball Times Top 50 list came out, Liberty added Jesse Sanders and Bill Weaver to the incoming class, which would have given the Flames a higher place in the Top 50. Sanders decommitted from a verbal agreement with Conference USA member Rice to attend Liberty, while Weaver did the same at Brown.
The honored recruiting class is now on campus and LibertyFlames.com is going to highlight each freshman in this new seven-part series.
Stephene is a 6-2 combo guard from Boynton Beach, Fla., who most recently played prep ball at Sound Doctrine Christian Academy in LaGrange, Ga., averaging 16.8 points, 6.0 assists and 4.0 rebounds per game as his team posted a 19-15 record during the 2006-07 season.
Stephene played his high school career at Boynton Beach High School, where as a senior he averaged 15.0 points and 7.0 assists per game. Stephene scored 38 points and was named MVP of the Martin County High School All-Star Game in 2006.
Stephene begins his collegiate career with the highly ranked recruiting class, but attended Liberty last year as a NCAA non-qualifier. Stephene made the Dean's List in the spring 2008 semester.
Ritchie McKay's Quote Upon Signing Johnny Stephene
"Johnny is a strong, quick combo guard who flew under the radar," said McKay. "I am really excited about his decision to come to Liberty, and we think he is going to be a nice addition to our family."
Sitting Down with Johnny Stephene
Why did you decide to attend Liberty?
I decided to come to Liberty because when Coach McKay came to visit me he showed a lot of confidence in me. He didn't just care about my basketball, he had a lot of confidence, but he cared about my personal life. I had to play for a coach like that.
What was it about Coach McKay that made you want to come and play for him?
I wanted to play for Coach McKay because of his history and his background. He has a lot of experience and I think about all the players he has brought to the NBA. I wanted to play for a coach who enhances my game to hopefully reach that level. I just love the way he approaches things, the way he approaches life.
What does it feel like to be joining a Top 50 recruiting class?
To be able to start my collegiate career with these guys feels really good. A lot of people were sleeping on these guys. Even their recruiting rankings out of high school don't do these guys justice. I am very happy to be a part of this family and we know it's going to happen with this group. We are shooting to make it happen this season, but it's going to happen.
You spent some time on campus this summer going to school and playing pickup games with most of the team. This is the first time you guys have all been together. How did you feel the team jelled?
I have never been around a team like this and it's to say that this is my favorite team I have ever been on. Everybody is like family and you can do anything around family. There is a special comfort level with family and I feel that with this team.
How important is chemistry?
Chemistry is all about bonding off the court. The way we have chemistry off the court shows how well we are going to work together on the court. I think we make it look really fun on the court.
Thus far, how has the Liberty experience been for you?
This school helps you set the foundation for the future of your life. When I came here, a lot of outside people talked about the rules I would need to follow as a Liberty student. But, the Liberty experience truly helps with life in general. Liberty has rules, but by following the Liberty rules you are setting yourself up to be successful in life well after graduation.
In your short time in Lynchburg, have you found a favorite hangout yet?
Buffalo Wild Wings on Wards Road for sure. That is where the team goes to hang out.
You are the only member of this year's freshman class that played prep basketball. How did that extra year prepare you for Division I competition?
I played against stronger competition in prep ball than high school. The prep experience prepared me mentally and physically to go into college and contribute significantly right away.
You have a very dedicated workout plan. Can you tell us a little about it?
I am in the midst of a program that I will continue until the first game. I am going to make 220 shots a day. It doesn't matter how late a workout goes, I am going to make my shots after any practice. It doesn't matter if it's a conditioning day, I am going to make my buckets. I also jump rope 500 times a day for cardio work.
What game on the schedule are you looking forward to?
Clemson, because that game puts us in the spotlight a bit and I know we can make noise against them.
What member on the team is the most likely to be a stud on "Rock Star"?
Anthony Smith. He is a video game person and he always wins. He adapts so well, so he could sing, play drums, guitars and let's not forget the dance moves. You really need to see him at our pilates workouts. It's funny man.
Behind the Young and the Restless Schedule
Aug. 21 – Seth Curry
Aug. 28 – Brolin Floyd
Sept. 4 – Carter McMasters
Sept. 11 – Jesse Sanders
Sept. 18 – Austin Smith
Sept. 25 – Johnny Stephene
Oct. 2 – Bill Weaver