Lance Stemler - Ready to be a Hoosier
Dec. 4, 2006
Indiana junior Lance Stemler is set for the next big challenge in his life - becoming a Hoosier. After spending the first two seasons of his career playing for different programs, Stemler is more than ready to call Bloomington home. Change is nothing new for the 6-8 forward, and he is expected to make his mark on one of the nation's most storied programs.
Stemler arrived in Bloomington after three years of ups and downs. Following a season-ending pre-season wrist injury at Southwestern Illinois Community College, he made the move to Bradley University for his redshirt freshman season, before returning to the Southwestern Illinois for his sophomore campaign.
"It feels really good to be able to call Indiana home for the next two years," Stemler said. "It will be the longest stay I have had so far. It will be nice not to move and be able to get fully adjusted with everything and build upon what I did the previous year. It's real comforting."
As a sophomore, Stemler earned National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) first team All-America honors and was an NJCAA Region 24 Most Valuable Player and a NJCAA All-Star. The Columbia, Ill., native closed his career with the Blue Storm sixth in the nation in scoring with 22.4 points per game, eight rebounds and 1.8 steals.
Despite several moves early in his playing career, the transition to a new city and a new school is daunting. Stemler credits much of the smooth transition to Bloomington native Errek Suhr.
"The coaches were a huge help in helping me in my transition, but it has really been my teammates who have made coming to IU so good," Stemler said. "When I first moved to Bloomington, I lived with Errek. Being a senior and being from Bloomington, he knows everything about the town, the school and the program. He's always been there for me. Every day when I see him, he asks me how I'm doing and if I need anything. If there is anything I ever need, I know I can go to him. He's been a great teammate and friend since the day I set foot on campus."
Stemler is not the only new face around Assembly Hall. He is joined by head coach Kelvin Sampson, assistant coaches Ray McCallum, Jeff Meyer, Rob Senderoff and freshmen Armon Bassett and Xavier Keeling and junior Mike White. Stemler has been there before and will look to use his experience of adjusting himself to a new system to help him at IU.
"Being a little bit older and more mature has helped me adapt to a new team and system a lot better," Stemler said. "Having a new staff, I'm not the only new guy to the coaching staff. I've learned a lot from each place I've been, and I think that has made me the player I am today. I've learned a lot of about myself, along with learning a lot of different philosophies from the different places I've played."
Despite the challenges of moving to a Division I program, Stemler's experience speaks for itself, as he will be looked to for leadership on a team dominated by underclassmen.
"I like to think of myself as a leader and be there to help the younger guys," Stemler said. "It's important that they have good leaders so they show up to practice ready to play hard every day. From my experience, that little motivation from the older guys to give it your all helps a lot."
One of Sampson's first signees, Stemler believes in his first-year coach and the brand of basketball he brings with him to Bloomington.
"Coach Sampson is a proven winner," Stemler said. "There is no doubt that he is one of the best coaches in the country. He is intense, and he loves what he does. Coach has been stressing playing with intensity every time you step on the court since he got here. That's his style of play, and that's how he has won and that's exactly how we are going to win. It's definitely a hard thing, but once you buy into it, you really see the effects of all of your hard work. If you work hard, you can't set limits on what you can achieve, and this team really embraces that."
All of the hard work seemed to pay off for Stemler as he stepped on Branch McCracken Court for the first time Oct. 13 for Hoosier Hysteria and got his first taste of IU Basketball. The feeling he got the moment he was introduced to the Hoosier Nation is an impression that will remain with him for years to come.
"Wow! The first time I stepped on the court it was unbelievable," Stemler said. "It was wild how many people came out for the exhibition games and how much they were into the game. The support that everyone, not just at IU, but all over the state, is unbelievable. As a player, that kind of support gives you so much more motivation. You aren't just playing to win, you are playing for the fans too, and that makes you want to win even more."
Although the journey to Bloomington has not been the easiest for Stemler, he is proud to call himself a Hoosier and become part of one of the most storied traditions in all of college sports.
"It means a lot to me to be able to call myself a Hoosier," Stemler said. "It's such a privilege to put on an IU jersey every day. To be able to play at a school with these kinds of fans and all of the tradition is an honor, and I hope I can contribute to a lot of success at IU."
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