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Friday, July 12, 2013
Zimmerman, Francis shine at adidas Inv.

By Paul Biancardi



INDIANAPOLIS -- The adidas Invitational is in its fifth year of competition and boasts a notable list of alums, headlined by recent NBA first-round picks Andre Drummond, Cody Zeller and Shabazz Muhammad. This year’s event began on Wednesday and will conclude on Sunday with the championship game, which will air live on ESPNU at 2 p.m. ET.

Thursday marked the first full day of competition and the players’ intensity was apparent from the start, with top-10 junior Stephen Zimmerman and Florida recruit Brandone Francis among the day’s elite performers.

Here’s a look at who stood out among the star-studded list of participants on Thursday.

Stephen Zimmerman
No. 7 soph. Stephen Zimmerman could be primed for a bump up in the ESPN 60.
Stephen Zimmerman (Las Vegas/Bishop Gorman)
2015, C, 6-foot-11, 215 pounds
Status:
The list is a mile long but Duke, Kentucky, Arizona, UCLA, UNLV and Indiana have been coming on the strongest.
Despite the early start -- 5 a.m. Vegas time -- Zimmerman answered the call and stepped up in a big way to lead his team to victory. This lefty has size, skill and shot-blocking talent, which makes him a factor on every possession. Zimmerman loves to operate in the mid-post where he utilizes his strong face-up game or on the low block, scoring via a jump hook over his right shoulder. His instincts are to score first but his quickness and willingness to pass the ball makes him an elite offensive player regardless of class.

On the boards, Zimmerman grabs the ball at or above the rim with two hands but not much strength, an area he will hopefully develop over time. His biggest area of growth will be getting stronger. Right now Zimmerman gets bumped off the block and loses control of the ball at times. But he’s a terrific two-way player who processes the game quickly and it makes the game easy for him. To us, he’s emerging as a top-five candidate in the 2015 class.

“He is loaded with athletic ability and the finesse to drive the ball from the high post and find the basket,” commented Clayton William, director of Zimmerman’s Dream Vision AAU squad. “He is plenty gifted with good hands to finish quickly on drop-off passes. [He is] always being overpowered by stronger players, so Stephen had to rely on his skills, that’s how and why he has such a high level of skill."

Brandone Francis (Jacksonville/Arlington Country Day)
2014, SG/SF, 6-5, 205
Status:
Committed to Florida
Francis’ game is a rare combination of power and finesse, and he uses both to be a very productive player. With the ball in his hands, he gets to his scoring spots or can make the assist with his improving vision. His jumper is accurate and has range out to the 3-point line and his midrange game is even better. In the pick-and-roll game, Francis comes off ball screens and creates separation to score or distribute.

As a small forward, he operates on the interior after receiving diagonal passes or via cross screens. His sweet spot is the left block, and due to his strong frame and size, he punishes like-size or smaller defenders with ease. Francis approaches the game with a next-play mentality, meaning he doesn't let the last play -- good or bad -- impact the next possession.

Goodluck Okonoboh (Boston/Wilbraham & Monson)
2014, C, 6-9, 215
Status:
Head coaches from Duke, NC State, St. John’s, West Virginia, Providence, Ohio State and Indiana were at his game Thursday.
Okonoboh did a great job of going after shots as he finished with 10 blocks and contested or altered a number of other shot attempts. Knowing that his primary role on defense is to protect the paint, I would like to see him not leave his feet so quickly. In fact, the best shot-blockers jump after the offensive player, waiting until the ball is released to attempt to swat it.

Offensively, he is adept at catching lobs at or above the rim or finishing drop-off passes. His protection of the rim helps ignite the transition game, as he will block a shot and then race down the floor to finish off the break at the rim. His post game is under construction as he is mainly comfortable turning right and facing-up against his defender. I like the way he runs the floor from rim to rim and stays in his lane, which makes him more productive.

Gaining strength will be vital so his balance and post scoring can improve. Also, he needs to lower his center of gravity to gain more leverage when making his moves on the blocks.

Caleb Martin (Mocksville, N.C./Davie County)
2014, SF, 6-7, 190
Status:
Committed to NC State
Martin did a great job of regularly getting to the rim and drawing contact. His drives were quick and he attacked the gaps with a low shoulder ready to score or absorb a hit, which produced several trips to the free throw line. Martin showed versatility by scoring with the jumper or the drive and mixed up his attempts based on how he was covered. He looked sharp and aggressive in attacking the basket and his scoring was balanced as it came from the jumper, dribble penetration and the charity stripe. Being consistent with this production is the next step for Martin, but the future Wolfpack was on his game Thursday.