• December 26, 2014

Growing up in Memphis

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Posted: Friday, March 22, 2013 4:30 am

“It was one of those March days when the sun shines hot and the wind blows cold: when it is summer in the light, and winter in the shade.” -- Charles Dickens, “Great Expectations”

For the much of this week, many in America have been focused on seeds. Not the kind you plant in a garden, but instead it is the debate of which 5 seed is going to fall to a 12 seed this season, or who is the hot 10-seed or above that is going to advance to the Sweet 16.

Confused, yet? Join the rest of red-blooded America. Because the real craziness of March Madness is rooted in the seeds.

That’s why Selection Sunday has become must see TV for college basketball fans all across the country.

But then again, the seeds only matter for the frantic hours brackets are open for making picks. Once that first ball tips at about noon on the East Coast and that Round of 64 gets under way, those seeds go right out the window.

The players themselves, they’re just focused on the next game. That’s certainly the case with former Harker Heights standout D.J. Stephens, who — despite the array of area players that saw serious playing time at the Division I level this season — is the lone Central Texas representative with any actual stake in the NCAA Tournament.

By this printing, Stephens will have (hopefully for my bracket’s sake) led No. 6 seed Memphis past 11-seeded St. Mary’s in their Round of 64 game Thursday at Auburn Hill, Mich., especially if he has anything to say about it.

The Tigers’ 6-foot-5 senior is a success story at Memphis, building himself up from a gangly high schooler known simply for his ability to dunk into a beloved fan favorite who has emerged as a potential NBA prospect.

All this despite being a “lowly” two-star recruit coming out of Heights, who was given a last-second scholarship to Memphis by a first-time head coach (Josh Pastner) in desperate need of bodies after ex-Tigers coach John Calipari gutted that year’s recruiting class on his way to Kentucky.

Pastner once said he instantly regretted the decision after seeing Stephens couldn’t do more than two pushups without stopping as a freshman.

But unlike Calipari, it appears Pastner — and by the same token Stephens — are getting the last laugh after the mighty Wildcats were ousted Tuesday by little-known Robert Morris in the first round of the NIT, while Memphis seems primed for its first serious NCAA Tournament run since Derrick Rose was running point.

After all, Stephens has little use for seeds. He’s out there plotting victories.

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