NBL Player Profile: Stephen Dennis
Steve Chalmers provides a background check on the United star who has had a slight delay before debuting for the Melbourne NBL club!
Who is Stephen Dennis?
A tall and athletic point guard, the 6'6'' import had signed for Melbourne United (formerly the Tigers) last season before a ruptured achilles tendon, suffered during one of the last training sessions before the season tipped off, delayed Dennis' debut on Australian soil as he was ruled out for the season.
Dennis is lean and agile, with a strong ability to get to the basket. His streaky jump shot is slowly on the rise; something United will be hoping is locked in this season.
"He looked like a capable passer and scorer who can get to the rim but struggles to finish at the moment, and seems to have a nice shooting stroke" - College basketball scout Kyle Nelson back in 2010
Graduating from Division II college Kutztown University of Pennsylvania, Dennis was the star of the school. In his final year at the University, he averaged over 26ppg and was awarded the NCAA Division II Player of the Year.
By the end of his collegiate career, Dennis led his school in points and assists, along with a single season points record of 817, scored in his senior year.
In 2010, Dennis went undrafted in the NBA draft before signing with the Los Angeles Clippers for two months. From there he played for NBA D-League side Bakersfield Jam in 2010, with a stint in Germany during 2011/12 playing for New Yorker Phantoms Braunschweig before heading back to the Jam. Dennis also had a short stint at the Brooklyn Nets which included Summer League games.
He summed up the differences between the D-League style of play and European basketball here:
"The D-League was kind of like a lot of dream-chasers. It's not like here (Germany) where it's a team game. In the D-League it was more one-on-one, everybody out to get theirs and trying to get recognised and get to the NBA. Here it's a better learning experience. You learn more about the game. [At] point guard, I learn more about the point guard position and how to run a team over here than I would in the D-League. Actually I like it here more. I am a scoring point guard but I also like to pass the ball. So here I know if I pass the ball that I have the opportunity to get it back." - Stephen Dennis while in Germany
The Melbourne United Basketball Club has certainly been regarded as one of the winners of this NBL off-season and retaining the services of Dennis was one of the main reasons for that. Other star signings that include Australians David Barlow and marquee Daniel Kickert have many fans placing United second (behind Perth) on pre-season rankings.
Hopefully Dennis' season-ending injury last year has not hurt his momentum leading into season 2014/15, as the team have an expectation of Dennis to burst onto the scene early and maybe even make a case for league MVP. With his size and length, coach Chris Anstey will be looking for Dennis to play both guard positions and log heavy minutes towards the business end of the season.
"I'm willing to play over here and make a career over here. But my ultimate dream is to play in the NBA. I'm going to do everything to the best of my ability while I am over here, and if I get that opportunity, I will take it."
At 26 years of age, Dennis still has a small window of opportunity to fulfil his dream of playing in the NBA. The next step now is for him to make a name for himself in the NBL!