Kendall played for the Orlando Magic at last year’s NBA Summer League and met a few interested NBL officials, but spent part of last season in Spain’s ACB league with Monbus Obradoiro before parting ways with them in January.
All the while, South East Melbourne Phoenix general manager Tommy Greer has been keeping watch on Stephens and this week, made him the latest signing to their inaugural roster.
Stephens is a 24-year-old, 200-centimetre swingman who can score from inside and outside so he should be able to give the side a boost in points and athleticism off the bench.
«I am really excited to get started. Any opportunity to play basketball is a blessing but for it to be with South East Melbourne Phoenix makes it even better,» Stephens said.
«My dad was happy for me when I was able to join the Phoenix. He had a great experience playing in the NBL and thinks it will be a great fit for me as well.
«My playing style is being efficient and smart. Understanding what my team needs and filling that role with either scoring or making the right play for a teammate.»
Greer credited NBL commentator and writer Liam Santamaria for first identifying Stephens during summer league.
«We are really excited to have Kendall on-board. His family has a rich history in the NBL and we are keen for Kendall to continue that here in the heartland of Australian basketball – South East Melbourne,» Greer said.
«We kept a close eye on Kendall’s professional career from this point and his brief time in Spain before reaching out to secure him for the upcoming season.»
The Phoenix are likely to sign an import point guard and wait on Creek before opting to use their last import role for either a centre or, if Creek is in the NBA, a small forward.
Stephens signing could prove more important if marquee signing Mitch Creek is lured back to the NBA for next season and can’t take up his deal.
Phoenix coach Simon Mitchell said Stephens had range in his shot that few could match in the NBL.
«Kendall is one of those shooters who when he catches fire, will make shots only a few in the NBL would dare take,» Mitchell said.
«It’s always exciting when young talent is introduced to the NBL, and I think his signing brings a real balance to our roster between youth, young vets and established veterans.»
The Phoenix have now signed Mitch Creek (unless in the NBA), Adam Gibson, Ben Madgen, Tai Wesley, Kyle Adnam, Dane Pineau and Kendall Stephens.
Melbourne United also confirmed on Tuesday they had re-signed veteran centre Alex Pledger for the 2019-20 season. On Monday, they announced Dave Barlow had also re-signed for one season.
Roy Ward is a Sports writer for The Age.