Arizona Basketball

Arizona Wildcats hoops recruiting: Big man Zimmerman can zip ball well as passer

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Stephen Zimmerman

Stephen Zimmerman

LAS VEGAS — The first noticeable aspect of Class of 2015 post player Stephen Zimmerman on the basketball court is his size at 6’11” and 225 pounds, followed not by his omnipresence around the basket, but how fluid he can play the game 10- to 15-feet away from the basket.

In one sequence Saturday during the AAU Las Vegas Classic at Spring Valley High School here, Zimmerman received a pass on top of the key, looked left first (he is a southpaw) and then right, took a dribble, raised the ball in what looked to be a shot attempt, drew a defender aside from the guy covering him, and hit an open teammate with an accurate pass. The teammate laid the ball in the basket in a beautiful sequence started by Zimmerman.

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His graceful play for a big man — he also has an accurate mid-range jumper — brought back memories of how Luke Walton, at 6’8″ could pass like a point guard.

That got me to thinking: Did Zimmerman undergo a growth spurt and was a point guard early in his development stage?

“Nah,” he told me. “I’ve always been the tallest. It’s just a natural thing. I’m lucky to be able to pass like I do.”


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Skill actually plays a significant part and that comes from countless hours in the gym. Zimmerman told me before his Oakland Soldiers team lost in the semifinal of the Las Vegas Classic yesterday that he would take a day or two off (today and tomorrow) and return to working out diligently on his game leading up to the 2014-15 school year at Las Vegas Bishop Gorman and his five official visits.

Zimmerman’s mother posted his five official visits via Twitter last night. North Carolina will get the first visit the weekend of Oct. 3, with Kansas (Oct. 10), Kentucky (Oct. 17) and UCLA (Oct. 24) hosting Zimmerman the following three weekends. Zimmerman’s final official visit will be to Arizona on Nov. 7. Hometown school UNLV and Indiana are reportedly still among his finalists.

Arizona plays an exhibition against Cal Poly Pomona at McKale Center the weekend of Zimmerman’s visit. The Wildcats’ football team also hosts Colorado on Nov. 8 for homecoming that weekend. Should be a festive weekend with Arizona celebrating its 100th homecoming anniversary.

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“I really like Arizona a lot,” said Zimmerman, who will visit Tucson only a few days before the fall signing period starts on Nov. 12. “They’re an amazing school.”

Zimmerman knows all about Arizona coach Sean Miller and that goes beyond playing for Miller on the USA 18U team that won the 2014 FIBA Americas championship at Colorado Springs, Colo., last month. Miller was an assistant to head coach Billy Donovan of Florida.

“Playing for Coach Miller was really cool to see how he coaches and how he can transfer his coaching style to the players he’s had (at Arizona) to us high school kids,” Zimmerman said.

Zimmerman added that he did not discover anything different about Miller during the two weeks they spent together in Colorado Springs.

“Not really because my parents and I study up on coaches and stuff,” he said.

Zimmerman’s parents are as much a part of the recruiting process as he is with the coaches and visits. He has let it be known that his parents will move with him to wherever he attends college if he leaves Las Vegas.

Although his parents will help in the decision-making process, they do not manage his on-court activity. One of Zimmerman’s strengths is his self-motivation and learning about the aspects of the game.

“He’s a team guy,” Oakland Soldiers coach Mark Olivier told the Las Vegas Review-Journal. “He’s just a great kid. He’s got a great personality.”

Being a team guy means he gets his teammates involved. He prides himself on his ability to play the post, although some recruiting services suggest he needs to get stronger in that area. But he told me his focus is improving his ball-handling.

“I feel like I could work on my ball handling a little bit,” he said. “I’m the type of center who can get the ball and push it. I don’t want to be the guy who loses it.”

Zimmerman has a calculating style with how he views the court and sets up others for shots if he can not get off a high percentage shot.

“I like making the right basketball play,” he said. “That’s the best thing. It kills me whenever people force stuff. I like working it around and getting the right shot.”

ALLSPORTSTUCSON.com publisher, writer and editor Javier Morales is a former Arizona Press Club award winner. He also writes articles for Bleacher Report and Lindy’s College Sports.

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