Cityscape: Las Vegas

It wasn't that long ago that Las Vegas was considered a remote desert waystation where the elderly went to gamble away their life savings and smoke and drink their way to poor health.

Unlike fabled basketball cradles like New York and Southern California, the grassroots environment in Vegas is a growing proposition. The city's ascent in hoops parallels its meteoric rise in population as well as its stature as a food and entertainment capital of the United States.

That said, the local basketball picture also is a bit muddled. The city — or rather, a suburb of the city — now lays claim to arguably the country's most powerful basketball academy, Findlay Prep. The school has received a lot of press both glowing and toxic, but the bottom line is that each year a steady of stream of elites are making their way from various territories to the Las Vegas area.

But this article doesn't concern them. My focus here is on the natives, and as you'll see there's plenty of homegrown talent to go around.

For example, just consider the junior Class of 2015. Our No. 5 prospect, Stephen Zimmerman, has been a grassroots fixture for years. I first watched him in 2011, and this summer he'll be a grizzled old veteran of the travel circuit. Meanwhile, No. 18 Chase Jeter is a teammate of Zimmerman's and carries immense accolades of his own, recently making an official visit to favored Duke.

Yet another ranked junior, No. 34 Ray Smith, also calls Las Vegas home. He's the subject of a fierce Pac-12 and overall Western recruiting battle, which naturally also includes hometown UNLV.

Nationally, the junior point guard crop appears weak, but the city also has the presence of three star floor general Darrian Traylor. Other Vegas juniors to watch include Nate Grimes and Nick Blair — another potential high-major at Bishop Gorman.

While the 2015 class appears extremely bountiful, this isn't the city's first trip around the talent block. Shabazz Muhammad led the way in the 2012 class prior to playing for UCLA last season and declaring for the NBA draft last spring. Muhammad's former Bishop Gorman teammate, Rosco Allen, currently plays for Stanford.

But there's no reason to look backward when there's so much to ponder going forward. Sophomores Tyler Bey, Chase Nomaaea and Zach Collins warrant monitoring in the coming months, as do freshmen Troy Brown, Christian Popoola Jr. and Charles O'Bannon Jr.

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