Kendall Stephens’ senior season figures to include aches and pains but, at least for now, it appears the St. Charles East’s boys basketball team’s leading scorer is suiting up.
East coach Pat Woods said Friday that “as of right now, we expect him to go, unless we hear otherwise.” The Saints start their season against East Aurora on Monday in the first round of their annual Thanksgiving tournament.
Stephens suffered a torn labrum in his right shoulder during the first week of practice last week, calling his availability for the season into question. But Woods said the tentative plan is for Stephens to try and play through soreness in his right shooting shoulder and delay surgery until after the season.
“He’s been phenomenal in practice the last few days,” Woods said, speaking before the Saints’ scheduled Orange and Black scrimmage Friday. “Just the usual Kendall. He might have a little issue if he tried to dunk the ball too hard or something, but his shooting’s been spot-on.”
Many players would be inclined to gut it out for their senior seasons but Stephens’ basketball future – he signed his letter of intent this week to play at Purdue – puts a brighter glare on the decision.
“He needs to surgically repair it,” Woods said. “He can play with it. If he had a chance to damage it any further, we wouldn’t let him play, but that’s not the case.”
It remains to be seen whether the 6-foot-4 wing sniper can deal with the injury over the course of an entire season, and there should be absolutely no second-guessing if it doesn’t work out, and Stephens and his family have a change of heart.
But, for now, Stephens remaining in East’s lineup – depending on how effective he’s able to be – restores East to preseason Upstate Eight Conference River favorite in many people’s minds.
The Saints will have a quick measure of their abilities against the always rugged St. Charles East Thanksgiving Tournament field. In addition to East Aurora, powerhouses Schaumburg and St. Joseph are in the Saints’ pool.
East and St. Charles North typically take their lumps in this tournament but Woods thinks the Saints have the team to potentially buck the trend.
Woods said only three starting spots are locked in – junior big man David Mason, junior point guard Dom Adduci and Stephens. The rest of the starting lineup might be fluid as several Saints make their case in the season’s early stages.
Some tough rotation decisions loom for Woods, but he’s not complaining.
“The bottom line is when the game is on, you have to produce,” Woods said. “If you’re not producing, we need to find someone that can.”
Production is seldom a problem for Stephens. Now the Saints have to hope his body allows him to do his thing.
• Jay Schwab is sports editor of the Kane County Chronicle. He can be reached at 630-845-5382 or firstname.lastname@example.org.