Now that the 2005 recruiting class is approaching its end, we have better clarity about the needs and targets for the rich 2006 crop. One of the most intriguing recruits is New Jersey center Brian Zoubek. At a legit 7'0" in socks and solid 250 pounds, he is a massive youngster just underway in his junior year of high school. The one position where the Card have completely struck out in the current senior class is center, and starting next fall, Trent Johnson will have just one center on the roster. Zoubek is the most distant recruit among the obvious elite targets for Stanford in the '06 class, but given his need and ability, he has as much attention as any recruit at this stage.
The Haddonfield Memorial High School center is ranked #25 in the nation in his class by Scout.com, and he is coming off a whirlwind summer of basketball. It started back in early June when he traveled as one of just two high school underclassmen (with Derrick Caracter) on the USA National Team at the Junior World Championships in Douai, France. He then returned to the States and headed across the country to Colorado Springs for the USA Basketball Youth Development Festival. Again as one of the youngest players at the invite event, Zoubek played limited minutes but averaged fantastic rebounding numbers - almost one board every two minutes on the floor.
July kicked off with the Nike All-American Camp, where Zoubek solidified his national standing and increased his recruiting profile with a host of college coaches in the stands. On the AAU circuit, he played with the New Jersey All-Stars at the Nike Peach Jam and then wrapped up the summer at the Super Showcase. Zoubek's team, though loaded with underclassmen, won that concluding event in Orlando (Fla.), defeating the heralded Georgia Stars in the final. The rising senior talent received a number of invitations for more basketball in August, but he and his family called it quits and brought him home for some needed rest and recuperation.
"Brian was working very hard all summer," explains his father, Paul." "It was important to try and keep in mind that he just turned 16 in April."
The younger Zoubek has experienced a good deal of growth the last two years, adding another half a foot to the 6'6" frame he possessed at the start of his freshman year. Now that his considerable growth has filled out his body, the Haddonfield (N.J.) standout is starting to focus on his physical conditioning and training.
"We waited for him to add a lot of weight naturally," offers Paul Zoubek. "It was great to play all the games this summer, but it's particularly important for Brian now to work on his skill development and his speed & strength. We made sure that once his body was done growing, then we would start him with a trainer."
The seven-footer is already an imposing talent in the low blocks, earning a #25 overall national ranking and #3 center ranking by Dave Telep and TheInsidersHoops. Telep says that the ability is there and the upside is considerable if Zoubek's training improves his athleticism.
"He has good footwork and is a really reliable post scorer," the national recruiting analyst details. "He's a very savvy and intelligent player. What he needs to improve is his quickness and getting off the floor a little better. He has skills - Brian Zoubek is not a project by any stretch. He's a player. And he has two more years of development before he gets to college."
"He has gotten better each year of high school, which is all you can ask for," Telep continues. "When you see a 6'5" wing, either he's fast or he's not. But with big guys, things can really change. Zoubek can really grow into his body."
While it is vogue for so many big men today to hone their perimeter skills, Zoubek is a player who thrives in the low post. With excellent footwork, he can score and defend at a dominant level in the paint. The seven-footer already has an ambidextrous hook shot and is early in his skill development. For his sophomore year, the standout center averaged 19 points, 12 boards and five blocks per game. Zoubek led Haddonfield Memorial to a 27-3 record last winter, including a Group II New Jersey Championship.
Big men with this size and ability are hard to keep under the radar, and it is no surprise that the East Coast recruit has heavy attention from the ACC and Big East. The Zoubek family has a plan for how to investigate the various suitors, including early trips.
"It's important to get the opportunity to go out and see the coaches and maybe a game," Paul Zoubek explains. "The problem with how basketball recruiting has moved so early is that kids sometimes don't see schools before they start making decisions. For Brian, we want him to take unofficial visits to his top schools, and then after January 1 take his official visits."
As a sophomore, Zoubek saw Duke and Wake Forest last year. The father says that they will take an unofficial trip on their dime out West to see Stanford soon this fall. For many recruits, talk is cheap, and we have seen a number of times how early verbal interest can fade away. But a cross-country unofficial visit like this says more than any quote about the level of interest Zoubek and his family have in Stanford.
No favorites are proclaimed at this time, but in addition to the aforementioned three schools, the father says that a "range of schools" are high on their mind - "Notre Dame, North Carolina, Princeton, and probably one or two I'm leaving out."
Until the recruit and his family see The Farm, it is difficult to gauge the future of Zoubek's Stanford recruitment. However, there is a heavy family emphasis on balancing education and athletics. Paul played football at Princeton, while mother Liza was a rower at Wellesley. Older sister Sarah (6'4") has just started her freshman year at Yale, where she plays basketball.
"They're both very, very bright kids," says Paul proudly of Brian and Sarah. "They have both always wanted a balance of academics and athletics."
As to the distance question, the father says Stanford does not necessarily have anything to fear. "It's his path," he says of his son's college decision. "We will support him in whatever he chooses."
The unofficial visit soon to come for Zoubek at Stanford will be one of the biggest events early in the 2006 Cardinal recruiting season, and we will stay on top of the story and keep you updated with all the latest on this elite 7'0" center.
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