Stephenson plans to hire agent

CINCINNATI -- Cincinnati freshman Lance Stephenson is entering the NBA draft.

The Big East's rookie of the year announced on Wednesday that he's going to hire an agent, forfeiting his remaining college eligibility. The 6-foot-5 guard from New York led the conference in scoring by a freshman with 12.3 points per game during a highly inconsistent season.

He finished strong, averaging 16.8 points and 8.3 rebounds over the final four games. As the season wound down, Stephenson said repeatedly that he planned to return for his sophomore season because he hadn't met his own expectations.

He could have substantially increased his draft status by staying for at least one more year and improving his all-around game. Stephenson struggled with his outside shot much of the season.

Stephenson understands that he's not going to be a top pick in the draft.

"I've heard from people that Lance needs to stay," coach Mick Cronin said. "Lance understands he needs to develop as a player. He's going to have a chance to do that as a professional. It's a risk, but everything is a risk."

Cronin flew to New York and met with Stephenson and his family to discuss the decision.

"They understand he could have played two more years and tried to be a top-five pick, but their family circumstances are what they are," Cronin said. "He has a family that needs help."