The 6-3 senior guard at Kentridge High School (Kent, Wash.) -- who has Seattle U high on his list of potential college destinations -- cannot help but recount a game in which he not only played with debilitating back pain, but a game his Chargers also lost.
"It was the last game of last season. We played Tahoma. If we would have won, we would have gone to the playoffs," Stepney says, a few days away from the first official practice of his senior season. "Even though I had a pinched nerve in my back, I had to pull through it. I couldn't make any excuses. We could've won in regulation, but it went to overtime and we ended up losing.
"It sticks out in my mind because I remember seeing the seniors' faces after we lost, and knowing everything was over at that point for them."
Although Stepney had 21 points, seven assists and five rebounds that evening -- up from his junior-year averages of 18 points, five assists, four boards and two steals per game -- he carried the sting of that loss with him through the offseason and used it to motivate him for his last go-around at Kentridge.
I haven't really set any personal goals for this season. Everything is about my team and my teammates," Stepney says. "We want to win our league. That's a good goal for us. It's not out of reach, but it’s still a challenge."
Stepney is an explosive combo guard who patterns his game after Russell Westbrook of the Oklahoma City Thunder. ("He can go zero to sixty within seconds.") Stepney sees himself as a two-guard in college who would thrive in a run-and-gun system with his athleticism, ball-handling and shooting.
He learned basketball from his father, Tracy, and his uncles, Kevin Greer and Gary Gardner. The latter played at the University of Washington.
Seattle U is the first school Stepney mentions when asked about recruiting. Portland, UC Irvine and Portland State are also in the mix, but Stepney acknowledges the Redhawks have shown the most interest.
"I want to go to a school that will help me be the best that I can be," says Stepney, who plans to major in engineering or journalism. "I want coaches who will stay on me and check up on me whether I'm doing good in school or if I'm not doing good in school."
Is SU's Cameron Dollar that kind of coach?
"I know he's that kind of coach," Stepney says. "I've been to a couple of SU games, just watching him and seeing how he operates."
The Redhawks signed one Class of 2014 recruit, point guard Jadon Cohee from British Columbia, Canada, at the beginning of the NCAA early signing period on Wednesday.
Stepney and 6-7 forward Elijah Foster from Seattle's Rainier Beach H.S. are two undecided 2014 prospects considering the Redhawks. Another senior, 6-7 forward Eugene Artison from Seattle's Franklin H.S., recently committed to Fresno State over SU.
Stepney has not yet set a date for when he plans to make his college decision. In the meantime, he's focused on some unfinished business on the court.
"Coming up short last season and the injury, that sent me back to square one," Stepney says. "This summer I opened up my variety of moves -- not just a crossover and a hesitation. I knew I had to develop a jumper off the dribble. I knew I had to get quicker on defense because I'm gonna be guarding the best player on the other team from now on.
"One thing my dad and my uncles taught me is that with basketball, you're going to have your off days," he says. "But you never quit. You never stop playing."
ALSO ON REDHAWK NATION: Canadian star Cohee picks Seattle U