With a veritable who's who of college coaches in the stands at the Peach Jam, with all the eyes of the Pac-12 on him, Phoenix (Ariz.) Westwind Academy forward Zylan Cheatham kept his focus on the 94 feet of hardwood, stuffing the stat sheet, pulling down rebounds and doing just about everything for his California Supreme AAU team.
"Most of the time it's just the 94 feet. It's kind of hard to completely block the coaches out," said Cheatham, who nevertheless did not the presence of California assistant John Montgomery. "I see him there, and we made eye contact. I definitely see them there, but I just try to focus on that 94. It's impossible to completely block it out."
Cheatham hasn't done as much research as he wants to on the Bears, but thanks to an overseas trip with the USA Select team, he got to know Cal on a more personal level, thanks to point guard commit Ahmaad Rorie.
"Out there, I didn't really relate to a lot of people, but he and I, we just related," Cheatham said. "There was a lot of time where we were just chilling, talking about a lot of stuff – basketball, school, recruiting. He's just a really chill kid, and he's a good player, of course, a very hard worker. He definitely seems like he wants to be the best."
The four-star Cheatham has been the apple of many program's eye, with offers from Arizona State, Boise State, Cal, Colorado, Colorado State, New Mexico, Oregon State, Texas, USC, Utah, Utah State, Washington and Washington State, many of whom were on-hand to see him in person during the weekend in Georgia.
"We actually did really well. We made it out of our bracket, but we ended up losing to the CP3 All-Stars, who lost in the championship game. We lost to the runner-up, pretty much, but we did pretty well. We came out and upset the No. 1 seed by 16 points, so we were doing really well," Cheatham said. "Defensively and rebounding-wise, I think I did pretty well. I had to pretty much accept the role of just kind of being a scrappy player, picking up and being that energy guy for my team. We have guys that score and do all those things, and we lack size, so I have to be the bigger guy, rebounding and focusing on that. In that aspect of the game, I think I played pretty well."
Cheatham was a blocking and rebounding machine at the Peach Jam, and also did all the little things that don't necessarily show up on the stat sheet.
"I was blocking shots, running the floor, contesting everything and stuff like that, picking up a tough foul every now and then, just setting the tone – things like that," he said.
Though the past few weeks have been a bit of a whirlwind for Cheatham in terms of recruiting, he still tries to keep in contact with Cal.
"I've been in contact with them pretty often, but it got pretty busy and pretty hectic the last month, so I didn't really get a chance to keep in contact with them, but I still talk to coach [Gregg] Gottlieb and I'm still in contact with him pretty often," Cheatham said. "Cal's a great school. I really like their committed point guard Ahmaad Rorie. We played on the USA team together and he's a really good guy."
Cheatham had originally planned to narrow his choices down right after this weekend's event, but he's going to take a bit more time before he sits down and starts eliminating schools.
"After this whole viewing period is over, I'll pretty much settle down and narrow my list down and then soon get it to five," Cheatham said. "Whenever I get it to five, those five schools will get my official visits. I plan on making my decision on my birthday, on Nov. 17."
What is Cheatham looking for in his finalists, and his eventual chosen institution?
"Style of play, fan base would be another one, the school in general and coaching staff is going to be a big thing," Cheatham said. "Coaching staff is going to determine what position I'm going to be playing and what I'm going to be allowed to do and what the coaches see me doing in that program, so that's probably going to be one of the biggest, to be honest."
How do the Bears stack up in those categories?
"I haven't really researched a lot about Cal, but me knowing the coaches and getting to know them as much as I do, and hearing word of mouth, they match up pretty well," Cheatham said. "Hearing from Ahmaad that they're a loyal program, I mean, he basically told me that once he committed, they didn't recruit any more guards – little things like that get me. Other than that, I'm not really very familiar with them."
Cheatham: Just Peachy
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