No, you’re not trapped in some kind of Eighth Circle of Tiësto Hell. The ravers have indeed left the building. Rather, that pulsating sound you hear is leather ball hitting hardwood. And unlike the Electric Daisy Carnival and other only-in-Vegas pop-up spectacles, this one sticks around longer than a week—and showcases actual, you know, talent.
Kobe Bryant, Kevin Durant, LeBron James, Steph Curry—in recent years, all have spent a portion of the summer playing basketball in Las Vegas. And they’ve done so at multiple stages of development: as high school seniors-to-be hoping to catch the eye of college coaches at our various summer prep tournaments; as recent NBA lottery picks prepping for life as a pro in the NBA Summer League; and as established superstars invited by USA Basketball to play for the ol’ red, white and blue.
Las Vegas has long held a prominent place on America’s athletic map. There’s the pulse of the sportsbook on an autumn Sunday; the heritage of Vegas-bred stars such as Andre Agassi and Greg Maddux; and the old and new legends of combat sports, from Don King and Muhammad Ali to Dana White and Anderson Silva. But make no mistake: We are first and foremost a basketball town—some might even say Basketball Town, USA.
• Many of college basketball’s top programs have, over the past half-decade, signed talent that was groomed in Las Vegas. (Just 18 months ago, the Valley was responsible for six of the top 100 high school basketball recruits.)
• In additional to our Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) tournaments each summer—a Las Vegas tradition going on 20 years—we’re home to two nationally recognized prep basketball powerhouses (Bishop Gorman and Findlay Prep).
• And Dave Rice has returned UNLV to national prominence by delivering a Top 20 recruiting class each of his first three seasons as Rebels coach.
Now, on the day this very issue hits the streets, two talents with Las Vegas ties—Shabazz Muhammad (Bishop Gorman) and Anthony Bennett (Findlay Prep, UNLV)—will be selected in the first round of the NBA draft. And right behind both Muhammad and Bennett is Stephen Zimmerman, the gifted 6-foot-11 junior-to-be at Gorman who one national recruiting service ranks as the second-best prospect in the Class of 2015.
You’ll get a chance to see Zimmerman—plus dozens of other college prospects—in action this summer at the adidas Super 64 tournament July 24-28 (held in high school gyms all over the Valley). Same goes for Muhammad and Bennett, assuming they’re selected by one of the 22 teams slated to participate in the NBA Summer League July 12-22 at UNLV’s Thomas & Mack Center and Cox Pavilion. And once the NBA’s stars of tomorrow depart, the stars of today will take over: Earlier this month, USA Basketball—already looking ahead to the 2014 World Championships and 2016 Summer Olympics—invited 27 current NBA players to a camp at UNLV from July 22-25, culminating with an intrasquad game at the Thomas & Mack.
If you’re a basketball junkie, summer in Vegas is your nirvana. And if you happen to be a basketball junkie with a 10-year-old son, we suggest he arrives at the gym with Sharpie in hand. We’re guessing that the autographs he gets will be more memorable—not to mention valuable—than Tiësto’s.