INDIANAPOLIS — Kentucky fans will be happy to know that UK beat Louisville to the punch in recruiting the top prospect in the class of 2015.
UK assistant Kenny Payne was the first college coach to send a text message to Las Vegas 7-footer Stephen Zimmerman in mid-June, when the NCAA first allowed direct contact with high school juniors to be.
"And then Louisville was second," the player's mother, Lori Zimmerman, said Thursday at the Adidas Invitational. "That was surprising because we hadn't heard from Louisville before."
At this early stage, the recruiting process has been full of surprises for Zimmerman, who acknowledged how unprepared he was for the immediate onslaught of calls and texts.
"Two years ago, I never would have guessed it," he said of being a highly-coveted prospect. "I was playing and having fun.
"I'm still playing for fun," he added. "Now, there's pressure and all that."
A former Bishop Gorman high school teammate, Shabazz Muhammad, tried to help.
"He told me it was going to be hard," Zimmerman said. "Then it hits you. I didn't expect calls at two in the morning."
As of Thursday, Zimmerman had 21 scholarship offers, including one from Kentucky, his mother said. Many other schools have expressed interest.
"It started off really crazy," Lori Zimmerman said. "But I guess I'm kind of getting used to it, and taking it day-by-day and call-by-call."
U of L Coach Rick Pitino sat conspicuously near the baseline behind one basket as Zimmerman's team, Dream Vision, played in the Adidas event Thursday. Zimmerman looked light on his feet. He caught everything thrown his way. In a self-critique after the game, he said he needed to be more aggressive.
Zimmerman described Kentucky's level of recruiting interest as "a lot" and said he hoped to make an official visit to UK. "They win," he said. "That's a big thing to win like that."
He also noted how another long, lean big man who ran the floor well, Cody Zeller, enjoyed success at Indiana. "They develop big men," he said. When asked if IU coaches mentioned Zeller's success to him, Zimmerman said, "They bought it up a lot."
As for the ultimate college choice, Zimmerman expressed relief that his parents field many of the calls.
Lori Zimmerman, who is 5-foot-3 (father Eric is 6-6), noted a memory from the recent NBA Players Association Top 100 Camp.
"We have a funny picture where he's surrounded by reporters and his face was like, 'Help!'" she said. "He's a 16-year-old kid. He doesn't know what to choose for breakfast, let alone a school."