The Big Deal: Stephen Zimmerman

Blue-chip basketball recruit


Photo by Anthony Mair

ACHIEVEMENTS Zimmerman may be the biggest basketball phenom to ever come out of Las Vegas—literally. The Bishop Gorman High School senior is 7 feet, 241 pounds, but his size is hardly the only reason dozens of the nation’s top college programs would love for Zimmerman to suit up for them next season. Many recruiting services have him ranked as one of the nation’s top 10 prospects because he’s got the kind of two-way game that can turn a college team into an instant contender. He’s already led Gorman to three straight state championships and is working on a fourth, averaging 16 points, 10 rebounds, four assists and three blocks per game for the Gaels this season.

A WANTED MAN Among the programs Zimmerman is considering are four heavyweights: Kentucky, Kansas, Arizona and UCLA. The only other school on his short list? UNLV—and the Rebels are doing everything they can to keep him home: On the first day NCAA coaches were allowed to contact him last summer, UNLV sent him nearly 100 recruiting letters.

UP NEXT Unlike many top recruits, who usually make their college decisions in the fall of their senior year, Zimmerman is waiting until spring. That should ensure that the frenzy surrounding his recruitment builds to a fever pitch—especially here in Vegas. But the 18-year-old understands how big his decision is, and he’s not taking it lightly. “I think about it a lot,” he says. “I don’t usually let it get to me or distract me from doing what I’m doing. I still have time. But it’s definitely on my mind.”

THE SKY’S THE LIMIT Zimmerman’s ultimate goal is to play professional basketball, and he’s already walking the NBA path. He was selected for the USA Basketball Under-18 team this summer, a program that has produced such pro ballers as Carmelo Anthony, Kemba Walker and Kyrie Irving. One NBA scout said Zimmerman’s physical development over the past year makes him comparable to such current pros as Chris Bosh and Kelly Olynyk.

SOCIAL STAR As big as Zimmerman is on the court, he’s just as big on social media. He’s got more than 11,000 Twitter followers (@Bigg_Zimm), and his personal brand of goofy/earnest is endearing to fans, whether he’s looping his best dunks on Vine or tweeting out his Snapchat handle. “Social media is definitely a big contributor to how I talk to everybody that I know,” he says. “That’s kind of my personality. I think I’m funny, and I feel like I can be anybody’s friend.”

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