For Kyle Stephenson, it almost like hitting the restart button.
The Leading Edge 2020 and Seton Hall Prep midfielder had been through the recruiting process as a freshman, but after the NCAA's rule change that prohibited contact with players before Sept. 1 of their junior year, Stephenson had an opportunity to look at things differently.
"It felt like it was a lot easier now than since when I was a freshman because I was so young then," Stephenson said. "I think I matured a lot and I felt more comfortable talking to college coaches because I'd done it before. I matured over the years, and it made me see what I liked and what I didn't like about colleges."
One of the schools that he visited as a freshman was Michigan, and once he took a second look at everything that the Wolverines had to offer, he found himself strongly considering the idea of heading to Ann Arbor to play his college lacrosse.
"When I went to visit again, I liked it even more than before, and I thought that the Michigan academics would help me in the future," Stephenson said. "I liked the atmosphere there and it felt like home."
It's where home will be for Stephenson's collegiate years after he committed to the Wolverines. A four-star prospect and the No. 25 prospect in the class of 2020, according to Inside Lacrosse, Stephenson is the ninth Leading Edge '20 to commit, all to Division I schools. Click here to see the full list of commits. Stephenson will join a young program on the rise under the guidance of Kevin Conry, who in just two seasons on the job already has wins over Notre Dame, Penn State and Ohio State to his credit. There's a buzz around the Wolverines' program, and it's something that caught Stephenson's eye.
"They've already made such big progress from the jump," Stephenson said of Conry and his staff, "and they thought thatn I could be a big part of their program and contribute a lot. I feel like they're making big moves. This year was a little tough because they had so many injuries, but they're definitely improving and they're bringing in big recruits. I've played with (fellow Wolverine commit) Mikey Boehm at Project Nine, and I saw a lot of good defenders at Project Nine that were committed to Michigan, so it's nice to see them making progress in recruiting some really good players."
"I'll have to get used to being far away from home, but Michigan has the big-school atmosphere that I want, especially with the football and basketball teams," Stephenson said. "Everything is so compact and there's one main road through campus. I also liked that the school buys into the athletes as much as the students."
Stephenson has been making a big impact on the field this spring, too. He's racked up 40 goals and 14 assists for Seton Hall Prep, which boasts a 20-1 record and is unbeaten against in-state competition. Stephenson has been at the forefront of the Pirates' offense, often being tasked with initiating from up top, drawing a slide and getting his teammates involved. It's a role that he was entrusted with after Seton Hall Prep graduated a ton of offensive firepower, including Leading Edge '18 standout Griffin Westlin, now at Notre Dame.
"I'm very fortunate to have great teammates and coaches who prepared me for a big part in this offense," Stephenson said. "The older guys really paved the way for us to make it easier, and everything just comes natural from playing fast in practice, and that transfers over to the game. I think that I have a good, quick first tep and I can finish on the run or with a stepdown shot, and I'm always looking around the field for the open man."
Stephenson joined Leading Edge as a seventh grader, and his talent was always evident. Stephenson molded himself into a top-flight prospect through his work ethic and ability to make plays against anyone, and it's for those reasons why he'll be a vital cog in the Wolverines' future.
"Kyle is an extremely gifted midfielder who can score almost at will, and he's just as good at setting his teammates up," Leading Edge director Chris Roy said. "He's a hard-working kid who strives to do just as well in the classroom as he does on the field, and Michigan provides him a unique opportunity to play high-end lacrosse at one of the best public universities in the country. We're excited to see him do great things at Michigan."
Before he worries about his senior year at Seton Hall Prep and his four years at Michigan, Stephenson has big things in mind for his final summer with the Leading Edge crew.
"I came to Leading Edge in seventh grade and Coach Roy and the coaches have pushed me to be the best I could be," Stephenson said. "I'm excited to play with the Leading Edge guys one more time."