UK Recruiting

UK target Zimmerman has rare skills for 7-footer

Stephen Zimmerman warmed up before the Under Armour Elite 24 Game in August. The 7-footer from Nevada has narrowed his list to five schools, including Kentucky.
Stephen Zimmerman warmed up before the Under Armour Elite 24 Game in August. The 7-footer from Nevada has narrowed his list to five schools, including Kentucky. AP

The series of throw-it-off-the-backboard-to-himself dunks that five-star recruit Stephen Zimmerman showed the crowd during pre-game warm-ups over the weekend was entertaining, but not all that surprising.

Zimmerman is 7 feet tall, after all.

The stepback three-pointers he was swishing a couple of minutes later? Now that was impressive.

It's that mix of size, athleticism and finesse that has made Zimmerman one of the elite prospects in the class of 2015 and one of John Calipari's top recruiting targets.

Calipari saw him play in Myrtle Beach, S.C., earlier in the week at the Beach Ball Classic, a tournament Zimmerman's Bishop Gorman (Nev.) squad won going away.

The UK coach sent assistant Barry "Slice" Rohrssen to Saturday's game in Wheeling, W.Va. It wasn't Zimmerman's best night — he had just 12 points in a 75-45 drubbing at the hands of nationally ranked Simeon (Ill.).

Zimmerman and his teammates left Vegas on Christmas night and had been on the road for 10 days, but he offered no excuses after the game.

"At the end of the day we didn't come out how we needed to," he said. "We came out soft, and they didn't and it didn't work out for us."

Soft hasn't been the word to describe Zimmerman this season.

247Sports national analyst Jerry Meyer says he saw the opposite when evaluating the 7-footer a couple of weeks ago at the Tarkanian Classic in Las Vegas.

Meyer was so impressed with Zimmerman's play that he bumped him up 12 spots in his class of 2015 player rankings, to No. 10 overall.

"He was playing with great energy and playing stronger — finishing plays off," Meyer told the Herald-Leader. "He was running the floor extremely well, and he's always run the floor well. He's always been talented, but the difference is he's finishing with a lot more strength and shooting the ball better.

"It's one thing to be 7-foot and mobile. It's another thing to be 7-foot, mobile and you finish off plays. To me, that's the big difference."

Zimmerman has been one of the top recruits in his class ever since his freshman season, and Meyer says he has "progressed at a natural rate" for a 7-footer, a type of player that usually takes a little longer to reconcile their bodies with their basketball talent.

The UK recruit also has been preparing for the next level by playing against the very best.

He attended the top Team USA and independent camps over the summer, switched his AAU affiliation to the hyper-competitive Nike circuit and is in the middle of what is surely one of the toughest high school schedules in the country.

"I don't think it can get any better," Zimmerman said. "Playing with this team — my family — and against teams like Simeon and Montverde and Findlay Prep, that's already getting me ready for the next level."

Zimmerman has narrowed his list to five schools — UK, Arizona, Kansas, UCLA and UNLV — and has already taken official visits to all of those campuses. He is not expected to make a college decision until after his senior season and could wait to see which players from the teams on his list decide to enter the NBA Draft.

Bishop Gorman's coaches did not want Zimmerman fielding recruiting questions following Saturday's loss, but it's unlikely he would have said anything to tip his hand even if he is leaning in a certain direction.

Meyer is predicting that Zimmerman will commit to UCLA but told the Herald-Leader that he would rank UK as the next likely landing spot.

The player himself hasn't really given any hints about his college destination, and all five of the programs left on his list seem like legitimate options to land his commitment.

"Zimmerman is a very difficult read," Meyer said. "I wouldn't rule anyone out."

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