Zimmerman Up For The Challenge

HAMPTON, Va. --- Stephen Zimmerman was ready for a new – and bigger – challenge. He's getting it on the EYBL circuit this spring.

Zimmerman opted to join the Oakland Solders, after traveling a number of years with Dreamvision of the adidas circuit.

"It's something different," the 2015 prospect from Las Vegas (Nev.) Bishop Gorman said of the EYBL. "The Soldiers have been talking to me since I was in the 8th grade. I played adidas four years and then I wanted to try something different and play Nike.

"It's way more challenging. A lot more aggressive. I love playing against all these amazing players and great teams. It's a really good experience."

That's not all that's changed. This is a different Zimmerman than observers saw a year ago. With the addition of 20 pounds, he looks the part of a college center.

"I'm 238," said the 7-0 rising senior. "Last year I was 215-220. I feel the same I just have a little more weight to push around."

Zimmerman has been content to play his part on this team, working within the offense to find his spots, and operating out of the high post. He averaged a double-double (11.3 ppg, 10.0 rpg) on the weekend in Hampton, as Oakland posted a 3-1 record.

"I need to be more consistent and aggressive," he said of his takeaways from the weekend.

Zimmerman's game is not that of a traditional center. As noted he is comfortable operating in the high post because he can face up to score and passes as well as any big man in the class.

"From the beginning I worked on the basics, a lot of footwork and touch stuff," he said of the origins of his advanced skill level. "I guess the touch stuff was there at the beginning."

He showed good range on his jumper shot, and was able to utilize his go-to post move: a lefty jump hook shot. Yet as fundamental as his game appears to be, he also had the event's best dunk of the weekend, a soaring one-hander over a defender on the break (photographed below).

Part of the adjustment to this new team has included sharing the frontcourt, and developing chemistry, with Ivan Rabb, the top-ranked post player in the 2015 class and a double-double machine in his own right. Rabb, too, thrives as a face-up power forward, but has set up on the block this spring to allow Zimmerman to operate out of the high post.

"It's pretty fun," Zimmerman said of teaming up with Rabb. "We're building (chemistry) together, we're getting stronger together and by the end of the summer we'll be a big force."

Zimmerman announced a list of his eight college finalists a few weeks ago - Arizona, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisville, North Carolina, UCLA and UNLV. That trimmed the number of schools contacting him, and helped organize the communication.

"Once I put out that list, everyone is texting me every day and keeping track of it," he said. "I just felt it was time. There were a certain number of schools that stuck out to me."

The goal for the next cuts to the list is to reduce it to five. But in order to do that, Zimmerman will need to see more campuses.

"Right now I've got to take some officials and unofficials," he said, noting that he's only had one in-home visit thus far, with UCLA. "I've taken unofficials to the close schools. The schools that are farther out on the east side – like Kentucky, Louisville - they're not as easy to get to, it's more expensive, so those are the schools I'll need to take officials to."

Zimmerman said North Carolina is a school he wants to visit and plans to visit. He's discussed the possibility of coming to "Late Night with Roy" for an official trip the first weekend in October.

"We've talked about visits, but nothing's set in stone yet," he said. "(Oct. 3) would be a good time, but I don't know for sure."

His communication with UNC's head coach has been consistent.

"They talk to me a lot," Zimmerman said. "Roy Wiliams likes me a lot. He's not really a texting person so he calls me a lot. Roy's real old school. ... He just has a message that I could be a big part of their program."

North Carolina is also recruiting Rabb, as are a number of Zimmerman's finalists. That begs the obvious question about the possibility that they end up teaming up in college as well.

Zimmerman said it's not a discussion they've had together too often.

"We've been top players and it's just kind of a thing to relax and not talk about basketball," he said of their conversations. "We only see each other on these trips, so these are the times we just hang out.

"If we both like the same school and both want to commit, we're not going to step away just because the other person wants to commit. But if it happens, it happens."

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