If you're an NBA fan who didn't pay much attention to NCAA hoops last season, your introduction to D.J. Stephens probably came during March Madness, when the undersized Memphis Tigers jumping jack wowed the national audience with his thunderous throwdowns and high-rising shot-blocking. His spring-heeled stature only increased after a pre-draft workout that saw Stephens turn in a 46-inch vertical jump, the highest ever measured by the NBA.
And now, thanks to international dunking concern Team Flight Brothers, we've got even more evidence of Stephens' ups ... and this one's sealed with a kiss:
(No, the highlight clip itself isn't fresh — it hails from Memphis' Midnight Madness dunk contest, which Stephens won, duh — but if you haven't seen it, it's new to you.)
We've seen other players kiss the rim in the recent past — off the top of my head, Dwight Howard and Sean Williams pop to mind — but those dudes stand upward of 6-foot-10. Stephens is 6-foot-5 in sneakers. That's some serious air to make up, and he does it with ease.
Despite the obvious athleticism that enabled him to lead Conference USA in blocks and post its fifth-highest defensive rebound rate as a 6-foot-5 senior swingman, Stephens went unchosen in last Thursday's 2013 NBA draft, earning an honorable mention from Y! colleague Jeff Eisenberg as one of the top undrafted players available. It didn't take long for an NBA team to decide it wanted a longer look at the 22-year-old leaper, as he quickly received an invitation to join the Miami Heat's Las Vegas Summer League team.
Stephens told Shandel Richardson of the South Florida Sun Sentinel he "will do whatever it takes" to "prove that I belong" with the defending champs.
"I understand that my role on an NBA team would be to just be a role player, somebody who is going to play great defensively and be able to knock down open shots," Stephens said. "That's fine with me."
If nothing else, here's hoping Stephens sticks around long enough to get some preseason run alongside the back-to-back champs' varsity squad. Anything that reinvigorates those spicy pregame layup line dunk contests is a pretty big win in my book.
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