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Stephenson's Success No Surprise to H.S. Coach

by Scott Agness | @ScottAgness

November 13, 2013

Pacers guard Lance Stephenson's roots are in Brooklyn, New York, where he was once the king of the playground and led Lincoln High School to a city championship in all four years. He then attended the University of Cincinnati for one season before entering his name into the NBA Draft, where the Pacers President Larry Bird snatched him up at No. 40.

Dwayne 'Tiny' Morton coached Stephenson at Lincoln, where triple-doubles were anything but unusual for him.

"He was just so powerful that it was easy to get," Morton told

Stephenson recorded his first triple-double since high school on Monday, finishing with 13 points, 11 rebounds and a career-high 12 assists in a 95-79 win over the Memphis Grizzlies. He also became the fourth Indiana starter to accomplish that feat in the last 12 months. Stephenson was so close to the mark by halftime that he could feel the moment coming, but Pacers coach Frank Vogel reminded him to not force it, but rather let the game come to him.

Coach Morton caught the end of Stephenson's career night.

"I thought that last year Lance was holding back," he said of his former star. "This year, he's definitely expressing himself and I'm not really surprised. I just hope he's not surprised. I know he belongs exactly where he's at and with exactly what he's doing.

"His best attribute is probably that his engine is always on. Every time he steps onto the basketball court, you can't see anything lackadaisical part his game."

Morton watches Stephenson often on TV and two men get together whenever the Pacers guard is back in town. Even though Morton is no longer his coach, Stephenson says they talk frequently.

“I talk to him all the time,” he said. “We actually talk a lot about trying to help the kids when I go back home during the summer and trying to do stuff for the kids back in my neighborhood.”

After his triple-double, Stephenson had more than 100 text messages plus thousands of Twitter mentions that he had yet to go through in the locker room. One of those texts was from Morton, of course.

“He definitely congratulated me,” said Stephenson. “He’s always been supportive and in my corner, just trying to give me tips that’ll help me be a better player on the floor.”

Moving forward, Morton believes Stephenson’s biggest challenge will now be staying focused and not letting this individual success get to his head.

So far, so good.

“I just don’t want to get overconfident,” said the fourth-year player. “I just want to stay humble. I feel like [Monday's game] was just a game that I normally play.”

Stephenson, New York's all-time leading scorer (2,946 points), had his jersey retired last summer at the famed Abraham Lincoln High School – next to Sebastian Telfair.

Coach Morton is proud of the success that Stephenson has had. Although the talent has been there, Morton has seen ‘Gump’ – as Stephenson is often referred to in the locker room for tendency to push the tempo with the ball in his hands – take new strides to where he is now earning heavy praise around the league.

"If he's being perceived like an All-Star with his team, I think he could be an All-Star this year,” said Morton. “His peers have to perceive him as an All-Star, also. Being an All-Star is always political and [about] fan favorites. If he plays the way he can play and shows that he belongs there, I think he could be an All-Star."

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