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Kendall Stephens was not always the sure-fire Purdue University basketball recruit outsiders might have assumed.
Yes, Stephens grew up a Purdue fan because his father, Everette, played there as part of the legendary trio with Troy Lewis and Todd Mitchell.
But Purdue had to convince Kendall Stephens just like any other recruit.
“To be honest with you, when I was first being recruited by Purdue, I wasn't too high on it,” Stephens said. “I wanted to keep my options open. Then, the last part of my recruitment, the last couple weeks, I really started to like Purdue and I had a gut feeling that it was the right choice.”
Stephens, who is in Fort Wayne playing for the Illinois Wolves in the Gym Rats National Championships at Spiece Fieldhouse, will be joining Purdue's incoming class in 2013.
Lining up against him on Thursday was a future teammate, Northrop's Bryson Scott. Scott plays for Spiece Indy Heat. So it was future Boiler vs. future Boiler. Scott's team won 66-63 and both players finished with 13 points.
“That's my first time ever playing against him,” Scott said. “He did good. He's a good shooter and I loved competing against him. It was a good game and I felt like he did well.”
Stephens, a 6-foot-5, 170-pound shooting guard, definitely has a natural outside touch.
Unlike some players in the summer prep circuit, Stephens is content to let the game come to him. He doesn't hunt shots, but works to find his openings through cuts and screens.
When he's able to catch the ball and square up, he's a dead-eye shooter.
“He knocks it down every time if you leave him open,” Scott said.
Scott has clearly built up his upper body strength since last basketball season. He says the gains in strength have also helped his speed. For Stephens, adding more definition to his frame will be a goal over the next year.
“Getting stronger is the biggest thing for me,” he said. “Obviously, growing has helped me out. …I'm constantly working at (jump shooting) and always improving my game. I'm never satisfied.”
Stephens said the more he talked with Purdue, the more convinced he was to commit to his parents' school. His mother also attended Purdue.
“(It's) everything about the coaching staff, the team chemistry they have,” Stephens said. “Losing (Kelsey) Barlow and still being able to bounce back really showed the character of the program. All the obstacles they've had to overcome, it's amazing to take Purdue where they're at. They have the most Big Ten championships, and a winning school and academics are a big part (of the decision).”