Tuesday, December 25, 2012
Augusta, GA -- Strong, driving, in control.
Those words described Jerel Stephenson's game when he was a Glenn Hills senior in 2008 and as a Paine junior today. The only difference...after a journey that took him to three programs in four years, now they represent his life too.
"I got a lot of playing time, but you could say I was kind of homesick," Stephenson said. "And it kind of didn't fit what I was looking to."
Jerel was one of the most valued prospects in Augusta coming out of high school, being a major piece of Glenn Hills' 2008 state championship team.
UNC Wilmington offered him a scholarship, and he was off to North Carolina. Not long after, though, he felt the need to come back home, enrolling at Aiken Tech.
It didn't take long for a new challenge to come along.
"I ended up breaking my jaw so I sat out all of last year. I didn't watch college basketball at all because I felt like I was supposed to be out there playing."
One major surgery and another life experience later, that brings us to today where the new goal is to revive his own dream and bring the Lions basketball program with him.
He said, "They were basically the only team that was very interested in me coming, and you know, it's my hometown. My family gets to come see me play so you can't beat that."
Nine months ago, his family grew by one when his daughter, Kennedi, was born, and that's been the biggest step of all in his rapid growth.
"It makes you grow up, and it also humbled me more than anything just because I know I have to stay on the right track because I've got somebody who looks up to me."
And it's not just the responsibility of being a dad. It's the perspective that comes with it.
"I come home to her, and she doesn't know if I win or lose so even if we lose I come home to her, and it just makes me happy."
Jerel just got back on the court once the first semester ended because of transfer rules.
He added that because Head Coach Jimmy Link has a one-year-old of his own, the two have bonded over not just basketball, but their kids.