2015 Intro: Stephen Zimmerman

One of the elite big men in the class of 2015 is Las Vegas area prospect Stephen Zimmerman. The 7-footer has already picked up a number of high major offers and interest from around the country. Duke has been in contact with the five star prospect early on, and Zimmerman spoke about that and more.

Let's start by getting some general background information, are you a native of the West Coast?

Stephen Zimmerman: I was born in Tennessee and we came out here when I was six or seven. Growing up, I didn't play basketball a lot, but my dad got me playing on his team when I was 11. I was always way taller than everybody, early on, but then everybody started catching up so I started working out and I got better.

When I came to high school at Bishop Gorman, everything took off nationally after that, it's a real blessing to be where I am.

Did you grow up watching basketball?

Not really. I was just like every other kid. At first it was a thing to do to play basketball, now it's definitely a necessity.

How big were you at 11 when you started playing?

Whenever I hit the 6th grade I was around six feet tall, and I grew probably another four inches each year since then. Right now I'm an even seven feet, and I weigh 215 pounds; and my wingspan is around 7-2 or so. 

Who helped you develop your game?

Once I got serious, Ron Holmes helped me out a lot. I would play at practices and stuff, he was the one who helped me develop my skills. It was really hard working with Shabazz because my skill level after my 8th grade summer, coming in to play him, it was really hard and I was really glad I did it.

Are you a prototypical, back to the basket, center?

I try not to be one dimensional, I'll shoot it if I'm open but I'll also post up a lot to create offense because I'm not the fastest guy on the court. I try to do more than just being back to the basket.

In the last year, where have you seen clear progression in your game?

My explosiveness and my will to get to the basket has gotten a lot better. I thought I did pretty good at the high school season even though at the start of the season I was one of the youngest guys on the team. The guys know what I'm capable of. When the games were harder, I got the ball some more to help out. 

How are you dealing with such high rankings and expectations at a young age?

With rankings, the main thing is you can't get overly confident. I'm really blessed to be where I'm at, and the only option is to go up. I can't get focused on the rankings too much so it doesn't get to my head.

How many new schools have entered your recruitment in the last year?

There's been a lot, and I'm open to all schools right now. Everybody at Gorman was saying that I was going to be going to Kentucky because they won last year, but anything can happen though. I have to be open to all schools, and I am listening to what they say.

What's your thoughts on the Kentucky program?

It's a great program, but they had their down year this year.

You sound like you are very aware of what you need to work on…

Yes, it comes from just watching all the great teachers in basketball who have talked to me about never stop improving.

What's your goals for the AAU season?

Get my name out there as much as possible. I know it's out there some, but I want people to know my name by the way I play.

Do you have any firm offers right now?

Yes, there's UCLA, UNLV, Oregon, Oregon St, Connecticut, Arizona, UTEP, Auburn, Memphis and a few others. Michigan and Michigan State have interest but haven't offered.

Are there schools who are indicating an offer is forthcoming soon?

Every school has interest, they are doing everything they can within the rules, everybody is doing pretty much the same thing.

Which schools were you making an effort to either watch on TV or trying to interact with this year?

I pretty much try to watch as much as I can, my parents are helping me in the recruiting process. They'll recommend games to watch on TV. I don't really do much, my parents are in charge of it, they just let me play.

What were your favorite teams to watch this year?

There were a couple teams I really liked to watch this year. I really liked watching UCLA because you know I played with Shabazz, so it was cool to watch them. I liked to watch Arizona because I know a bunch of people who went there. Duke was pretty fun to watch. I didn't really not like watching any team, Oregon was a great team to watch too.

What are the items you are evaluating as you look at each school?

I would say the main one is cohesiveness amongst the team. How the guys being bonded together who play for each other and also a school who has a great history. A team with a winning history, great coaches, they used to be a big thing you know ?

How much does a school's history with big guys in the program matter to you?

A lot, honestly. My ultimate goal is to get to the NBA, and I want to be with a team who produces a lot of players into the NBA -- both big guys and also guards. I want to play for a school that develops their bigs.

In your evaluation of the teams this year, did anyone's use of their big guys stand out?

Right now with the history, I'm not really sure, but I watched a couple teams, most of the games I'd see how things were going with them and how plays were being run smoothly, I didn't focus on their bigs a lot.

Most bigs tend to look at factors like post touches, role of bigs in an offense and other factors--sounds like you have a different set of criteria….

Yeah, being with the Gorman team, I'm trying to get mine, but in a different way. Like if I'm on a team of shooters, I'm going to be crashing the boards, and getting extra possessions. Teams who use their bigs, it's a big deal, but there's other things that will make me better.

If I'm playing with a team with shooters, I'll just be able to work on my rebounding stats, I'm not the type of person who gets the ball in the post and just puts his head down and tries to score all the time, I try to keep guys involved.

Any other examples?

I like bigs who will screen and move, because it gives us a good chance to score, whether it be a point guard who penetrates off the screen to score himself or drive and kick or give to me and I score. It's one of the greatest things I've ever used. the pick and pop is also good for me to use too.

Would you say you model your game after any players?

I wouldn't say one specific person, I like to do things like Dirk Nowitzki does but not just shooting all the time. I don't shoot the way he shoots or the amount that he does. I also like Blake Griffin, how he gets to the rim, finishes and make plays, I try to do that too. 

Turning to recruiting, where do things stand?

Right now everybody is open with me, and I'm looking at a lot of schools. I would say it's pretty much wide open.

How much interaction is there with the various coaches?

My mom would call a lot of the coaches, and my parents like to play a role in my recruitment and I'm happy to let them do that. I do talk with coaches myself too.  My parents tell me to watch the little things, like how do schools feed the post, stuff like that. They pretty much like all the coaches.

Which visits have you taken so far?

I visited UCLA, Arizona and UNLV, but that was awhile ago.

Any visits lined up for spring/summer?

I have no clue, that's up to my parents. 

You mentioned Duke earlier, what are your impressions of them?

They seemed very close and cohesive on the court. Like I said earlier, it's good to see a school like them be on the same page with each other on the court. Coach K is obviously a great coach, and he has a great history. They are a great team but also a young team too moving forward. It's a big thing to see how their players will adjust to losing those seniors next year and that's something similar to what we went through at Bishop Gorman. Losing Shabazz and Ben Carter and Rosco Allen and all them, we were very young this year, that's a main thing to watch, is how they react when they lose those seniors.

How much interaction have you and your family had with the Duke staff?

Not a whole lot so far. I got a letter from them about a month ago, that's the first I personally have heard from them. I don't know how much my mom is talking to Coach K. My parents open the letters most often, they try to keep me from most of the recruiting stuff. 

How do you see your recruitment progressing with your involvement in it?

I'm hoping to take my time in my decision, hopefully I'll get a bigger role in talking with the coaches. 

When you consider a program, how does the front court depth chart factor in?

I wouldn't say a lot of bigs on the roster, but maybe another one to three bigs and also a really good point guard, that'd be cool too.

Do you want to go in as a center at a school or do you prefer to go in as a power forward playing alongside a physical forward/center?

It doesn't really matter to me, as long as I don't have to just run straight to the basket all the time. I don't want to just play in the post and not be able to do anything else.

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