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The Twitter update St. Charles East's Kendall Stephens posted Monday afternoon said it all: the next time he wears a basketball jersey it'll be Purdue University's black and gold.
The Saints' senior 6-foot-5 shooting guard, a Boilermakers commit in his fourth season as a starter, has surgery scheduled Jan. 22 to repair a torn labrum in his right shoulder. He initially injured the shoulder in practice shortly before the season began and reaggravated it Dec. 27 against Stevenson at the Proviso West Holiday Tournament. When extending the arm continued weakness and "shooting pain," he said, caused him to shut it down for the rest the season.
"I pretty much knew before the (Jan. 5) Evanston game I wasn't going to give it a go," Stephens said Monday.
"This is one of the biggest, toughest decisions I've had to deal with. But it's all for the better, know what I mean? God has a plan and everything happens for a reason," he said.
"Instead of using this situation as kind of getting down on yourself, you can turn it into a positive, come back stronger and it'll give you that much more motivation to prove people wrong."
There can't be too many detractors. As a junior the smooth-shooting righty averaged 17.7 points and 7.5 rebounds. Shrugging off the preseason injury he exploded with consecutive games of 22, 31 and 30 points to lead St. Charles East to the title of its own Ron Johnson Thanksgiving tournament — for the first time since 1994 — where he was voted MVP. He averaged 19.2 points a game this season.
Stephens anticipates a six-month recovery time following surgery, and still plans on attending Purdue's preseason camp in June.
"If I could play through it I would have, but I just knew I couldn't," he said.
Hindsight being 20-20, he still was glad to have played the 11 games he did this season with St. Charles East, which is 10-4 and, behind Dom Adduci, Cole Gentry and A.J. Washington, is 2-1 without Stephens entering Tuesday's nonconference game at Glenbard West.
"Even playing the few games I did ... I think I really grew from just that short amount of games. I grew a lot," said Stephens, who maintained he'll attend practices and games. "I don't regret it at all. It's a great group of guys. These seniors, it's a great class. I don't regret anything."