SALT LAKE CITY — DeShawn Stevenson could have been a freshman at Kansas this season, rattling the rims at Allen Field House with an array of spectacular dunks.
Instead, he usually watches games from the sideline at the Delta Center, averaging 5 1/2 minutes and 2.2 points as a Utah Jazz rookie who jumped from high school to the NBA.
Don't feel sorry for Stevenson, though. Without hesitating, the 6-foot-5 shooting guard said he made the right move.
"If I went to college, it would have been a joke," he said. "I probably would have done one year and then left. This way, I get an extra year in the league under my belt."
He also gets a paycheck, earning about $828,000 this season in a three-year deal worth as much as $2.67 million under the NBA's collective bargaining agreement.
That's good money for most, especially someone who's 19.
The first thing Stevenson bought was an SUV. Next, jewelry: a chain with a dazzling pendant, a 3-inch diamond-studded "2."
Stevenson rents a condominium in downtown Salt Lake City that he shares with his 32-year-old uncle, Alonzo Taylor, who keeps an eye on the youngster.
That's where the glamor ends.
Instead of adopting the bar-hopping, fast-living lifestyle that could tempt a teen-ager with a lot of new money, Stevenson insists he's happier just relaxing at home.
"I'm not really a nightclub person," he said. "I'm not old enough to get into a nightclub."
After his early spending spree, Stevenson turned frugal.
"I used to live on $20 a week. Give me $5,000 a month and, yeah, it's good for me," Stevenson said. "But to tell the truth, there's a lot of things I wanted that I decided not to get."
A year ago, Stevenson was starring at Washington Union High School in Fresno, Calif., averaging 30.4 points, 9.7 rebounds and 6.2 assists.
Stevenson initially committed to play at Kansas. He made himself eligible for the NBA draft in May when his SAT score was scrutinized after a dramatic improvement.
Stevenson learned quickly there's a glare from the spotlight. He was involved in a 20-person brawl in Fresno on the night he was drafted--not quite the headlines he had envisioned would accompany his NBA entry.
"It was kind of rough at the beginning," he said.
The Jazz seemed a little uneasy at first, too. Team officials broke tradition by drafting a high school player. Eventually they concluded the fight was uncharacteristic of Stevenson, who has caused no other problems.
"He really seems like a nice kid," coach Jerry Sloan said. "I might hesitate to say that about some guys, but he's really been terrific."
Stevenson is often described as a raw talent, with the athletic ability to be an NBA star but lacking the experience and the well-rounded game to contribute more.
To that end, Jazz assistant Kenny Natt works tirelessly with Stevenson on shooting drills in practice.
"We didn't want to put any pressure on him," Natt said. "We'll bring him along slowly."
Stevenson outperformed high school opponents by playing above the rim, using his explosive burst to the basket. Sloan was pleasantly surprised by Stevenson's defensive skills but said the rookie's biggest shortcoming is shooting.
"He's got the ability to beat people," Sloan said. "What he needs to learn is how to make the open shots so they'll have to come out to him on the floor to defend him."
On the social front, the Jazz paired Stevenson with swingman Bryon Russell, who just turned 30 but makes a good mentor because of his lighthearted personality.
"I really look up to him," Stevenson said. "He works hard but he also acts like a little kid."
Stevenson credits veteran teammates Karl Malone and John Stockton for discouraging behavior that could harm the team.
"They get their rest and it pays off," the rookie said. "I'm lucky to be on an older team. If I was on a younger team, I might give in more easily to someone who didn't want to stay in."
So what does Stevenson's day involve? When the Jazz are home, he starts his morning by lifting weights before practice or the team shootaround.
"When I come home, I sleep for an hour, then I watch TV, play some [video] basketball or football games against my uncle, then we'll sit back and talk to each other," he said.
On the road, he's just as mild.
"I usually stay in and get my rest. I'll watch some comedy shows and then I go to sleep," he said.
Things are mellow right now, but the Jazz saw enough in Stevenson to hope he'll be a franchise cornerstone when Stockton and Malone retire.
Stevenson thinks he'll be ready.
Russell recalled what he told the rookie about working and living in the NBA:
"When it comes, it's going to come fast, so be careful," Russell said. "Everybody wants something or has expectations for you. Just do your best and make DeShawn happy first."