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2023 wing Danny Stephens joins Mizzou as preferred walk-on

When Danny Stephens committed to Missouri on Wednesday, it felt like a weight was lifted off of his shoulders.

Stephens, a 6-foot-7 senior from Southeastern High School (Ill.), knew he didn’t want to feel the pressure of trying to impress college coaches in his final season with the Suns. He held offers from Eastern Illinois, South Dakota, Southeast Missouri State and Western Illinois and had interest from a few other schools. But Stephens has always wanted to play basketball at the highest levels of the sport.

Mizzou assistant coach Kyle Smithpeters reached out to Stephens about a month ago and the two had been talking on a regular basis since then. Stephens took a visit to campus two weeks ago and felt like it was the place he belonged.

It led to Stephens accepting an offer to become a preferred walk-on for the Tigers on Saturday.

“I felt that I couldn't pass up on the opportunity to go against some of the best players in the world and I'm just betting on myself to see what I could do there,” Stephens said.

Stephens is a do-it-all player for Southeastern — he averaged 28.1 points, 10.5 rebounds, 2.4 assists, 2.3 steals and 1.4 blocks per game last season and led the Suns to an Elite Eight appearance in Illinois’ Class 1A playoffs.

He counts his versatility and his motor as his biggest strengths. Stephens plays point guard for his high school, but plays wing, forward and center for his club team.

“I can guard one through five, shoot inside-out,” Stephens said. “And just playing hard, getting after loose balls, diving on the floor, rebounding, stuff like that.”

Stephens said the honesty of Missouri’s coaching staff helped sway his decision. He’s dealt with coaches in the past that misled him, but said that wasn’t the case with head coach Dennis Gates and that the staff as a whole is energetic and fun.

The Bowen, Ill. native is the fourth addition of Mizzou’s 2023 recruiting class, which currently ranks 19th in the country, joining Jordan Butler, Trent Pierce and Anthony Robinson.

Stephens said Southeastern lost a few seniors and will be reliant on underclassmen to step up into new roles this year. But with his commitment to the Tigers locked up, he’s ready to focus on guiding the team to another Elite Eight appearance.

“The most exciting part about (playing for Missouri) is being able to go compete with high-level guys,” Stephens said. “I mean, just being able to wake up every day and know that there's someone out there better and trying to get to be just as good as them. Just always competing every day with the best players.”

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