Lamar Stevens (above) became the Roman Catholic senior headed to Penn State next fall. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)
Josh Verlin (@jmverlin)
Every day, Lamar Stevens would wake up leaning in a different direction.
After the muscular, 6-foot-6, 200-pound wing cut his list of schools to a final eight out of the 20-some that had offered, he found it increasingly difficult to narrow things down to a final selection.
Then he went on his official visit to Penn State, and suddenly his choice became clear.
Stevens’ public commitment to the Nittany Lions came on Friday afternoon, at a press conference at Roman Catholic, but his actual pledge to head coach Pat Chambers came a few days prior, on Sunday morning at the Nittany Lion Inn in State College.
“When I took my official up there...it was such a family environment and you could tell that they had so much confidence in me and my ability to be successful,” he told CoBL on Thursday night. “It was hard for me to turn down.”
Stevens had an enjoyable weekend in Happy Valley with his parents Lou and Kim and younger sister, touring the campus with Chambers and assistants Keith Urgo, Dwayne Anderson and Ross Condon and seeing a football game.
But the clincher came on Saturday night, when Stevens and Chambers had a one-on-one talk that left Stevens knowing he’d found the right spot to spend the next four years.
“Me and coach Chambers, we just had...the most open, honest conversation with each other, and that’s honestly when I got the feeling that I knew I could trust this man, I’d trust coach Chambers with my life,” he said.
By committing to Penn State, Stevens joins a group of three other seniors, including Roman teammates Tony Carr and Nazeer Bostick as well as Oak Hill (Va.)’s Joe Hampton, that now easily forms the most promising recruiting class in the program’s not-so-illustrious basketball history.
Combined with current Penn State sophomore Shep Garner, there will put four Roman alums on the Nittany Lions' roster in 2016-17.
Carr, a top-50 point guard, and Stevens, a top-100 wing, are the two gems, but both Bostick (a 6-4 wing) and Hampton (a 6-7 forward) are top-150 players nationally as well; the quartet will be expected to do big things once they arrive on campus.
“You see a lot of top kids from North Carolina go to N.C. State, and top kids from Michigan go to Michigan State, and I feel like we really have a good opportunity to start that at Penn State,” Stevens said. “That’s their vision and that’s our vision too.”
Bostick, Carr and Stevens were all teammates this summer for Nike-backed Team Final, with Carr and Stevens each receiving nearly two dozen high-major offers after Bostick committed earlier in the spring.
It was a very strong summer for Stevens, who averaged 15.3 ppg on 45 percent shooting, coming in second in the EYBL in getting to the line (130 FTAs). Playing at his best in uptempo games, Stevens is a mismatch nightmare on the wing with his strong body and explosive athleticism.
Stevens and Carr have been best friends for years, dating back to their days as eighth and ninth graders at Abington Friends. They split as high school teammates as sophomores, with Carr going to Roman and Stevens heading to the Haverford School; after spending the last two summers together with Nike-backed Team Final on the shoe company’s Elite Youth Basketball League circuit, they’ll reunited as seniors now that Stevens has enrolled at the Catholic League powerhouse located at Broad & Vine.
And despite the two stating a strong desire about playing college basketball together back in the spring, Stevens admitted that during the summer he thought it wasn’t quite so obvious that it would actually happen.
“After Tony committed, I didn’t think I was going to go to Penn State,” he said. “There were plenty of days where I woke up and I knew I was going to go to ‘Nova, or I knew I was going to go to Indiana; there were days where I woke up and I liked all of the schools, and I wanted to go to each of them.”
After telling Chambers and staff of his commitment, Stevens’ original plan was to keep things secret from his best friend until his Friday press conference.
He was able to keep it to himself initially, playing three games with his Roman teammates at West Chester’s “Big 64” after arriving home on Sunday--even though he showed up at West Chester wearing PSU sweats.
Stevens lasted until Tuesday before he finally confessed to Carr that they would be teammates.
“I was trying to keep it down, but I just couldn’t,” Stevens said. “I was too excited.”