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Top of the Arc - February 16, 2009

Feb. 16, 6:30 a.m.: Good morning, everyone. This is Eric. There has been considerable buzz about the recruitment of Lincoln High’s Lance Stephenson, the No. 1 player in the Class of 2009, according to Hoop Scoop. If Stephenson plays for Maryland next season – and if Greivis Vasquez returns -- the Terrapins would have the pieces to return to the NCAA tournament and perhaps win a game or two. When former Maryland standout Byron Mouton called me, Mouton brought up Stephenson and said his arrival “would be huge. It would be like the second coming of Steve Francis.”

Mouton said he talked with Stephenson for 15 minutes in person during Stephenson’s official visit to Maryland for the Miami game on Jan. 31.

“I told him, ‘The ACC, the University of Maryland, the facilities, the exposure – man, I think it is a great opportunity for you to come in right away and play on a big stage like this,’” Mouton said. “He got a little excited about that and was like, ‘You are right.’”

Stephenson is expected to take an official visit to Kansas for the Feb. 21 game against Nebraska. Mouton raved about the commitments of big men Jordan Williams and James Padgett, and said with “90 percent of the offense back, I think they will be real good next season,” if the Terrapins also get Stephenson.

Mouton also wanted to put a “positive spin” on the tenure of Coach Gary Williams, who has come under scrutiny recently.

“He is getting a lot of heat, but people don’t understand that Gary built the whole program over again,” Mouton said. “Everyone is just looking at the last five years, nobody talks about the last 15 years. It’s sad. Nobody talks about what he has done for the state of Maryland, the university and for people like me, Juan [Dixon].”

Mouton, who transferred from Tulane, said he wishes he could have gone to University of Maryland for four years.

“When I came to Maryland for a game, I never did understand why Coach Williams would scream at the players on the bench who didn’t play,” Mouton said. “I never could figure that out. But what drew me to Maryland was that I loved Coach Williams’s intensity, and throughout my whole career I played for a coach who had high intensity, and I loved that intensity. I am a very emotional type player and I love playing for an emotional type of coach.”

Mouton said Williams would never compromise his integrity in recruiting, a stance that perhaps has cost him players.

“I know for sure that Gary would never, ever break any rules,” Mouton said. “Sometimes it will hurt [him] but I know for sure that he is doing it the right way. I think it all is going to pan out.”

By Eric Prisbell  |  February 16, 2009; 6:19 AM ET
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