Nicknamed ‘The Sniper’ for his long-range shooting prowess, the 6-foot-3, 170-pound Stephens developed an outstanding comfort level with the Rhody coaching staff, allowing him the freedom to confidently commit early.
I caught up with the personable and driven rising junior to discuss his passion for the game, work ethic, and commitment to Rhode Island.
Chris DiSano: For those Rhody fans not familiar with your background, can you bring them up to speed?
Chance Stephens: I have always been in Riverside, CA… grew up here. But my mom and my dad are from east. My dad is from Washington, DC, and my mom is from Detroit. I’ve been east a few times. I like it out there a lot. I have a brother who is 13 and, two sisters, one older and one younger.
Growing up, I’ve been an athlete. I’ve played three sports: tennis, ran track, and got into basketball around seven years old. When I was running track as a young kid I actually got 5th place in the junior Olympics in the 1600 meter. I got tired of it and moved over to basketball.
My dad began training me and he’s done a great job. We’ve always shot together. When I was young I’d shoot 50 jump shots a day in five spots: corner, wing, top key, wing, opposite corner. I’d start with mid range. Also always worked on that left hand, that off hand, with ball handling. But shooting has always been my gift.
— Chance “Sniper” Stephens 🎯 (@sniperstephens3) November 12, 2020
CD: It’s interesting that you say that. I watched some 2018 videos of you… first, you ditched the glasses, you going with contacts now?!
CS: [Laughs], yeah switched to contacts a couple years ago.
CD: … and I saw you working on ball handling and that skill development.
CS: Those ball handling drills I’ve been doing since a real young age, maybe 7.
CD: Cool. Let’s talk shooting. When did you lock-in and start committing to those reps?
CS: I’d say around nine or ten years old. I was like “man, I don’t know if this is going to work, I’m not hitting my shots…” Then I hit my first three. I was super excited, began to develop confidence, and when something is working you keep at it.
CD: How many shots do you get up now on average?
CS: 500 to 600 per day, Monday through Friday.
CD: So, it’s Tuesday. I was out with my Toshiba hand-held gas blower clearing some leaves before this conversation and you’re saying you were getting 500 shots up today — on a Tuesday?
CS: [laughs] Yep. My school during these COVID times doesn’t start until around midday. I wake up early, eat breakfast, brush my teeth, go to the gym and get my shots and work in. Then I go back home and get ready for school. Maybe lift later in the day.
CD: As far as the league you play in out in California, who are the other top programs? Any parallel AAU involvement?
CS: For Riverside Poly, we have Rancho Verde and North Riverside – those are the really good teams in our league. For AAU I’m playing with the Cali Rebels but we haven’t gotten a lot of games in. I haven’t played too many AAU games; I’m just focusing on getting stronger and getting better.
CD: That’s a great segue. You’re going into your junior year (Class of 2022) and we’ve talked about your commitment to working on ball handling. What other facets of your game are you working on?
CS: I’ve been working on one-dribble pullups, creating my shot, getting to the basket, working in the post. I want to get some new stuff in my bag. Right now, for my high school season we’re supposed to start in March 2021, but not sure with closures. So just getting ready.
CD: You’ve talked a little in the past about Steph Curry. Is he the player you pattern your game after? Are there others you like based upon the way they move without the ball, their release, etc.?
CS: I like watching Steph Curry. He moves well without the ball, has a good handle on him, he can get to the basket. He just has so much stuff in his bag so I like watching him and studying his game.
CD: What about defensively? Rhode Island is a defensive oriented team. You’re no stranger to hard work.
CS: Defensively, my off the ball defense needs to be worked on. There are some steals in the passing lanes that I miss, so I have to get better there. My on-ball defense is pretty solid and I have confidence in that.
CD: Nine schools offered and many more recruited you. Who did you feel the most genuine interest from… who, beyond Rhode Island, was after you the hardest?
CS: Loyola Marymount, Rice, San Diego State I’d say… Arizona State was up there too.
Chance Stephens | 6’2 2022 @PolyBearsHoops | @ChanceStephen_4
One of the best 3 point snipers on the west coast!
Offers/Interest from A10, Big West, MEAC
— SIMPLY BASKETBALL (@simplyy_bball) March 30, 2020
CD: What was it about the Rhode Island staff that stuck out to you as different?
CS: Coach Cox is a caring person. He has a drive to win but he’s not just about winning, he cares about the team and you on and off the court. It’s really hard to find someone that is like that. He, my dad, and Coach [Kevin] Sutton have known each other a long time, back from the DC area.
CD: What about the school itself stood out to you? I know with COVID you probably have not visited yet…
CS: From the videos I’ve seen I like the school vibe; good size, not too big or too small. The arena is amazing. Crowd is involved, great fan base. I like its location on the east coast. My dad would always talk and joke about east coast hoopers being way better, and I always wanted to get east. I’m hoping to enjoy the experience.
CD: You’ve got this year and next year before you come east to Kingston, RI. I read an article back in July where you were discussing timetable of commitment. You said that if you found the right fit you’d commit. What told you, ‘hey, I could wait… but I don’t need to wait’?
CS: I just got that feeling. It felt right. The feeling that ‘this is the school I’m going to spend four years at.’ And I went with it. Now I don’t have to worry about anything else, all this other recruiting stuff… I’m ready for Rhode Island.
Chris DiSano, is an Atlantic 10 analyst and writer. He has served as the host of A-10 Live! at Men’s Basketball Media Day and founded the former College Chalktalk. DiSano, who was named NBC Sports top Atlantic 10 basketball follow on Twitter for five straight years, can be found on Twitter at @CDiSano44