Inside the Zimmerman recruitment

He's one of the top big men available in the class of 2015, and the recruiting world has taken notice, along with the majority of the high major program roster. So how is Stephen Zimmerman dealing with all the attention? We spoke with both the seven foot junior and his mother to find out. Here, his mother describes her role in the process, and who she's been in touch with.

Stephen mentioned that you fielded a lot of the phone calls today.

Lori Zimmerman: Yeah, that's normally what I do. I'll take the calls initially from the coaches and then work out a time for Stephen to call them back.

No two parents are the same in how they handle recruitments, how are you handling Stephen's process?

From watching other recruitments and from seeing what happened with Shabazz, I just feel like it's my job to protect Stephen and let him be a kid and practice and do whatever he wants to do and not have to worry about this portion of it. That's what I field the bulk of it and take the calls, so he can still be kinda a normal kid.

What did you learn from seeing how Shabazz's recruitment played out?

I just think…that's a tough one…probably you have to really have to keep your circle tight, everybody wants a piece of you, so you have to be aware of who is around you, what they want your son to do, where they want him to appear, who they want him to talk to. You try to let him have some kind of a normal high school experience.

Bazz just had so many people after him at all times, you rarely got to see glimpses the real Bazz unless you were with a small group in the gym. I don't want Stephen to feel like that, I want him to be a normal kid.

In talking with Stephen before this interview, he just seems like he's taking everything in stride with the coaches. Is that similar to your approach?

I think at first it was a lot different, and it was a lot more exciting in the beginning. Now, it just seems like it's just another day. Today was really exceptional though, I think I tweeted that the big boys came out to play today, today was definitely exciting. I think we're getting used to it and treating it as the norm.

Was it exciting because you were receiving calls from schools like Indiana and Duke and Kentucky as you tweeted, or was it more excitement about things that they said?

It's exciting that they have such a high level of interest in Stephen. He's worked so hard to get to where he is right now after he had the injury last summer. It's exciting to see the coaches recognize his hard work and his abilities. Coach Payne from Kentucky had some really real things to say in our talk, you kinda get used to hearing coaches say some of the same things, but Coach Payne impressed me, he broke it down into a real life talk, not so much about where the program is and this and this, it was more you have to be comfortable with who you are leaving your son with. He said we want to get to know you guys and you guys get comfortable with us, it was a good, kinda real talk.

Stephen had mentioned previously about the Kentucky conjecture early on that he would end up there, now that you have interacted with them, what are your impressions of that program?

You can't help but be very impressed with them, and there's a lot of impressive programs out there. For me, I want Stephen to find where he's going to be happiest. Where he's going to fit and where he feels he's going to be used properly.

What do you mean by "used properly"?

Getting the big man the ball, getting him involved in the game you know? Lately, in AAU, it's more a guard driven game, and once you get the ball you tend to shoot. You gotta feed your big man because he's running the floor all the time, he's getting you rebounds, you gotta reward him for going up and down the court.

It sounds like you are looking for a program that bases their offense around the big man--is that a fair estimation?

Yes, I would say so.

In talking with Stephen before, he's mentioned that in addition to post touches, he also looks at how he would be involved in the flow of the offense, how he would move, etc. How much do you look at all the other things bigs are asked to do alongside post touches?

I think it's all important, and he's very unselfish. He has no problem passing. That's kinda what broke him out last year. He knows if he doesn't have a shot, he's going to pass it to someone who does. He needs a place where he can play his game.

Post touches is a thing that many people like to talk about when evaluating programs, do you feel like there are programs that have set themselves apart in how they utilize their bigs and post touches they give?

I'm sure there are, I would say there probably are some, like Michigan, Kansas, but you also have to realize that you have to have gifted bigs to do that. Not every school has them.

How does that balancing act of evaluations play into things?

Just because you necessarily don't have a big like that and use him that way, they may not be able to. That's part of the learning process, watching a lot of games, seeing how they use them, taking visits, talking with some of the players. It's not one thing that's going to make the difference, it's going to be the big picture.

What constitutes the "big picture" in your mind?

Stephen being comfortable, Stephen liking his coach, liking the team he is surrounded by, development of past players, things like that.

What do you think will make Stephen "comfortable" since that means something different to each player?

You know, he likes structure, he likes a coach who has discipline, who when he needs to he's going to be firm, he doesn't need to be every players buddy, he likes the team feel. He likes everybody playing as a team, not as individuals.

Why do you think he likes structure?

I think that's what he's used to, you know? We've always held him highly accountable in certain areas. If we see something or a teacher sees something or a coach sees something, we will call him on it, try to explain to him. Normally he's the hardest on himself. He wants to get better, he wants to develop, so he wants to hear from the coaches.

Did you hear anything positive from the coaches in your recent conversations about how they would develop Stephen?

You know we did, but you have to see it in action too. That's where visits will come in handy and talking with the players. It's easy to say things over the phone, but it's another matter to see you actually do them.

Are you going to line up any visits this spring or summer?

I think we will, and we're trying to. We just came off April which was really busy for us, and May is going to be kinda busy as well for us. We just need to get a few weeks to sit down as a family and figure out what visits we can do.

Are there any no-brainer visits you know you are likely to take?

I'm sure in the long run there are. As for this summer, I can call out maybe an Arizona, since they are so close. While we're traveling this summer we might try but we can't have contact with the program in those kinds of situation if we're nearby, so we'd like to check out Indiana while we're around there, maybe check out the campus or maybe drive up to Notre Dame to see the campus. Kinda explore on our own before we go and meet with the coaches.

Does a school offering early in the process give them a leg up in Stephen's recruitment or is it all even no matter when a school offers?

I think it's all even no matter when an offer comes, although the UNLV fans would just bury me for that. They always like to remind us that they were first to offer him.

It's interesting seeing how interactive you are with the fans on twitter-what's the motivation for you to engage them as consistently as you do?

I don't know, really. I've said it before, I know the interactions will come to a halt at some point, probably by early on junior year so we can keep things to ourselves. The fans are awesome, they want to know what's going on, who you have talked to, so you look forward to be able to give them a little bit of info.

Is Stephen going to try out for Team USA again this year?

Well, he went to Development Camp last summer, and he's already 16 so he missed the deadline. He's a September birthday so he missed the deadline by around two months. We still went to the camp and talked with people there, and they are keeping an eye on him for the 18 and under team and any other team that he might be appropriate for. We have a good relationship with Team USA, they've been great with us.

You mentioned on Twitter today that you spoke with Coach Wojo from Duke and that the "lines of communication were open", can you share what that means?

I actually used that because that's what he used with me when we talked. He said we really wanted to open the lines of communication with us. They had seen Stephen when they were here watching Shabazz, so we haven't really had much interaction with them since that time and with Stephen being out last summer, it was really quiet. He just wanted to open it up and start the recruitment again, that's what led me to use that phrase because that's exactly what he said to me.

What else did he say?

It was probably about 20 or so minutes, just introducing himself, asking if I remembered him from when they were out here recruiting Shabazz. He was just introducing himself to me, and filling me in on his background. Trying to get a feel as to who is going to handle the recruiting for Stephen. Those first few conversations with anybody are just kinda getting the basics down. Usually after the second or third conversation that I have with them, that's when I'll introduce them to Stephen, get him comfortable with the coaches so he can start talking with them himself.

What was your impressions of Coach Wojo after talking with him?

That whole program is just legendary. I went to UNLV, so I know all about Duke, and just getting to speak with them, it's just so humbling that they have such a high interest in Stephen. They spoke very highly of him and their interest in him, they want to recruit him. It makes a parent proud.

What did he say that indicated the strong interest they have?

He just said that Stephen caught their eye when they watched him as a freshman and they have watched him grow as a player, how impressive his recent play was, how he's always getting better. He's a top recruit for them he said.

Did he indicate he wants to get you guys on the phone with Coach K-or still too soon for that?

I think it's still too soon for that, he's going to keep the lines of communication open with me and he's hopeful that after a few phone calls that he can get on the phone with Stephen. He was very respectful, he had respect for the way I handle things. It was nice.

What's your thoughts on the Duke players that they've had come through the program?

You know, Stephen watches Duke much more than I do, so I don't really have that much of an opinion on them. Like I said, I'm a UNLV graduate, so i'm kinda biased. I wouldn't say I don't like them, but they did my hurt my heart way back then (haha). You can't deny what an amazing coach Coach K is and what an outstanding program they have. With the talent and size that Stephen has, we'd be foolish not to consider them.

Do you think there will be a serious consideration of Duke as an option for Stephen or are there hurdles there?

I think, the hurdles are mine alone, and I don't have to go to the college, Stephen does. I had my turn awhile ago to go to the college that I wanted to go to, now Stephen has his choice. Regardless of where he chooses to go, as long as we're comfortable with where he decides to go is for the right reasons, he can go where he wants to. If that's Duke, then that's great.

Does distance play a factor in his decision?

No, I don't think so.

Do you contemplate moving to where he plays?

We just kinda starting having that conversation, and have been kicking it around. I'd say it's about 50/50 right now about whether we'd want to. The turning factor is probably going to be where he ends up going.


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