NCB On The Trail: Stephen Zimmerman

Five best mid-major classes in 2015 

December, 11, 2014
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Conference realignment was supposed to mean the death of mid-majors as perennial mid-major powerhouses such as Xavier, Utah, Butler, Memphis, Temple, Creighton, SMU, and others moved up to high-major conferences.

It hasn’t worked out quite that way though as new programs have emerged as the best of the mid-major elite.

With that in mind, here is a look at the best mid-major recruiting classes to date in the 2015 class:

1. VCU

“Havoc” is synonymous with defensive pressure as VCU’s relentless style of play has become one of the better known brands in college basketball. Offensively though, they’vehad some challenges, especially when unable to create offense from their defense. That won’t be the case for much longer as their 2015 class includes perhaps the best wing scoring tandem the program has had under Shaka Smart. ESPN 100 prospects Tevin Mack (No. 58) and Kenny Williams (No. 79) won’t just bring productivity, they’re two guys who can score from various spots on the floor, including behind the 3-point line. Add in Jordan Murphy, a combo forward who fits the prototype necessary for the Havoc style, and this is the top mid-major class in the country to date (ranked No. 25 in our class rankings).

After the early-signing period, Kentucky is at the top of the class rankings. But with seven of the top-10 prospects in the ESPN 100 still uncommitted, there is plenty of work left to be done before the best class in the land is crowned.

With that in mind, here’s a look at the No. 1 class contenders, what they would have to do to finish in the top spot and what their chances are of finishing there (percentage):

Kentucky (75 percent)

Yes, the Wildcats are No. 1 now, but ironically none of their three commitments -- Skal Labissiere (No. 11), Isaiah Briscoe (No. 13), and Charles Matthews (No. 44) -- are from a top-10 ranked player in the class and so they’re far from a sure thing. John Calipari will likely look to add two more pieces to his class, one in the frontcourt and another in the backcourt. If he can get Ivan Rabb (No. 5), Cheick Diallo (No. 7), Caleb Swanigan (No. 8), Stephen Zimmerman (No. 10) or Carlton Bragg (No. 18) up front and then Jaylen Brown (No. 2), Malik Newman (No. 3), Brandon Ingram (No. 12) or Antonio Blakeney (No. 14) in the backcourt, UK has a good chance of finishing on top. If they have a mass exodus to the pros, and end up taking more than two players off this list, the top ranking will be a virtual certainty.


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The early signing period in men's college basketball has passed, and seven of the top 10 players in the country are still on the board, which means the landscape of college basketball for next year has yet to be determined. Why do some prospects make early decisions while others wait until later on in the process? There are certainly advantages and disadvantages to both scenarios.

[+] EnlargeJaylen Brown
Courtesy of Kelly Kline/AdidasJaylen Brown says he wants to evaluate college rosters before he makes his final decision.
 When the NBA prohibited prep players from going directly into the pros (2006), blue-blood programs had to change their recruiting philosophies. Likewise, it has changed how the recruits themselves look at the process.

Currently three of the top-10 prospects in the 2015 class have signed early -- with LSU (No. 1 Ben Simmons), Marquette (No. 4 Henry Ellenson) and Duke (No. 9 Chase Jeter). For the ones still waiting to make their decision, there seems to be one reoccurring theme on why they are waiting.

Roster movement.


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Kentucky reclaims familiar No. 1 spot 

November, 14, 2014
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Heading into Thursday afternoon, Kentucky had a borderline top-40 recruiting class nationally. There was just one player in the fold, four-star guard Charles Matthews.

Less than one hour later, Kentucky was back in a familiar spot -- with the No. 1 recruiting class in the country.

The Wildcats landed commitments from Skal Labissiere (No. 11 in the ESPN 100) and Isaiah Briscoe (No. 13). Labissiere might have the highest ceiling of any prospect in the class, and Briscoe’s strong summer cemented his status as the premier point guard in 2015.


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Roundtable: Analyzing the early signing period 

November, 12, 2014
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College basketball's early signing period begins Wednesday, and while 78 of the ESPN 100's prospects have committed to schools across the country, it's time to put pen to paper. Our RecruitingNation analysts break down what they expect to see before the signing window closes on Nov. 19.


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UCLA may already have a pair of ESPN 100 commitments on the books in the class of 2015, but the next two weeks will go a long way toward determining the ultimate strength of the class.

For Steve Alford to return the program to the level that UCLA was once known for, and still expects to be, the second-year head coach needs five-star recruits who can come in and be difference makers from Day 1. He also needs to make a habit of getting them on an annual basis.

[+] EnlargeBrandon Ingram
Kelly Kline/Under ArmourLanding Brandon Ingram would go a long way to solidify UCLA's 2015 recruiting class.
Kevon Looney was that type of guy last year. 2016 commit Lonzo Ball is similarly impressive.

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Last weekend, Kentucky had about 90 NBA scouts on its campus for a practice that was televised on ESPNU -- yet this weekend will feature an even bigger event for the Wildcats.

Friday brings Big Blue Madness to Lexington, where the Kentucky faithful will pack Rupp Arena for their first look at the 2014-15 edition of the Wildcats, the likely preseason No. 1 team in the country. More important, it is also the biggest recruiting weekend of the year for John Calipari and Kentucky. Seven five-star prospects from the classes of 2015 and 2016 are expected on campus this weekend, in addition to four-star commit Charles Matthews.

Calipari and his staff haven’t tried to downplay the event to the prospective recruits, either.

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Every coach wants an unselfish team, and one way to get there is by evaluating and recruiting prospects who understand the value of moving the ball and making the assist.

You can teach players how to make a pass or show film of where the ball should be thrown and what type of pass should be made, but it takes skill, timing and innate instincts to be an accomplished passer.

The following are the five best passers in the senior class, and each has a skill that separates them from their peers.

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Big men dominate in class of 2015 

September, 29, 2014
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A closer look at the class in 2015 shows that 10 of the top 15 prospects are either power forwards or centers. But don’t be mistaken as not all big men are the same. This is certainly not a one-size-fits-all talent pool.

Let’s look at how they are different in size, body type, skill, athletic ability and basketball IQ.

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Uncommitted prospects talk recruitment 

September, 18, 2014
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With the early November signing period quickly approaching, it’s time to take a look at the uncommitted prospects in 2015.

These six players spell out when and where they’re visiting, and what they’re looking for in their eventual destination.


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NEW YORK -- The Under Armour Elite 24 game is loaded with ESPN Recruiting Nation ranked players from the classes of 2015, 2016 and 2017 and can be seen at 7 p.m. ET Saturday on ESPNU live from Pier 2 of Brooklyn Bridge Park. Let's take a look at five matchups that we are most excited to see.

POINT GUARDS

ESPN 100 No. 62 Jawun Evans 6-foot, 180 (Dallas, Texas/Justin F. Kimball) vs. ESPN 60 No. 9 Dennis Smith Jr. 6-1, 173 (Fayetteville, N.C./Trinity Christian School): In this all-important lead guard matchup, it will exciting to see who will run their team, push the ball and set the tone. Evans -- a great finisher for his size -- has blinding speed and quickness and can get teammates involved. Smith beats defenders off the bounce with ease and is a playmaker for himself or teammates. He is a highlight finisher on the break who can simply put the defense on its heels and create help situations all over the offensive end of the floor.


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LeBron James Skills Academy recap: Day 1 

July, 10, 2014
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With all the speculation over LeBron James' next destination, he still found time to exhibit his elaborate skill set with all the campers as he leapfrogged from one court to another. However, he wasn't the only star of the day as local product Stephen Zimmerman dazzled onlookers with his vast skill set. Zimmerman wasn't the only camper that stood out as Syracuse-bound Malachi Richardson, multiskilled Miles Bridges, and 2017 stud DeAndre Ayton all had their moments.

Best Player

Ben Simmons

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Five burning questions: Arizona 

June, 20, 2014
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At this time last week, Arizona had two early verbal commitments in the Class of 2015 and two graduating seniors whose scholarships would need to be filled.

The Wildcats' work seemed to be done early. Except it wasn’t. Not even close.

Last weekend, ESPN 100 guard Tyler Dorsey decommitted from the Wildcats in a move that many had come to expect.

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Accusations of academic scandal have hit North Carolina once again. This time it is specific to the men’s basketball program.

While the plot has only thickened since the first “Outside the Lines” report, what many now want to know is whether there will be any tangible impact on the product Roy Williams and UNC will put on the floor.

[+] EnlargeRoy Williams
Grant Halverson/Getty ImagesHow will the accusations of academic fraud impact Roy Williams' ability to recruit his 2015 class? It's probably still too early to tell.
The simple truth is we don’t know yet. Should this spark another investigation or the NCAA deem it necessary to get involved, there could certainly be repercussions. Otherwise, while it’s something that Williams will have to deal with on the recruiting front, it’s likely not an insurmountable obstacle.

You could also make the argument that North Carolina’s 2015 recruiting class is now even more important than ever, as the Tar Heels will look to silence those critics who may be whispering of their demise from the shadows.

On the surface there aren’t many pieces to replace, as Desmond Hubert is the only scholarship player in the senior class. They do have additional scholarships available, however, and that could be important should Marcus Paige, Brice Johnson, Kennedy Meeks, or incoming freshman Justin Jackson play well enough next season to warrant an early jump to the NBA.

From the looks of its early recruiting, North Carolina appears to be focusing on 10 players with hopes of bringing in a three-man class.


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LONG BEACH, Calif. -- Though the overall talent level was diminished in comparison to previous years, this year's Pangos All-American Camp still included several talented prospects, led by McDonald's All American candidates Isaiah Briscoe and Stephen Zimmerman.

Best player


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