NCB On The Trail: Stephen Zimmerman

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The player rankings in all three high school classes (ESPN 100, 60 and 25) have been updated. We base our rankings on the four Ps: Performance, production potential and projection, among many other factors. First we analyze and evaluate a prospect's individual performance, his production level now and possibly at the collegiate level, his potential in the college game, and where he could land on a possible professional draft board.

The player rankings also affect a school's class rankings, which have also been updated. Since our last update in September, some of our evaluations have changed or been confirmed. We are midway through the high school season in our rankings and there's still time for more movement, as this is a fluid process.

Here are five things to know about the new rankings.

Recruiting Roundtable: Hoophall Classic preview 

January, 15, 2015
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The Hoophall Classic, a five-day event that features some of the nation's best high school teams and prospects, begins Thursday in Springfield, Massachusetts. Our experts discuss the biggest storylines heading into the action.


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Kansas finally got on the board in the 2015 class Thursday, when five-star forward Carlton Bragg announced his commitment to the Jayhawks (after initially saying Kentucky).

There probably wasn’t any real concern in Lawrence about the lack of commitments in the senior class, but there is a segment of the Jayhawks fan base that breathed a slight sigh of relief late last week.

Now, where does Kansas go from here?


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Five observations: Cancer Research Classic 

January, 5, 2015
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WHEELING, W. Va. -- Here's what we saw at the Cancer Research Classic, a tournament featuring some of the nation's best Catholic high schools.

1. Ben Simmons (No. 1 in ESPN 100) did his best to put to rest any debate of who is the best player in the 2015 class. This past Friday Mr. Simmons put together the "perfect" game, scoring 26 points and not missing a single shot or free throw. He went 11-for-11 from the field, 2-of-2 from 3 and 2-of-2 from the free throw line. He added five rebounds and six assists for good measure. Simmons is pretty much a man among boys at this point. If he can consistently knock down the perimeter jump shot, he completes the puzzle at the high school level.


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Five observations: Tarkanian Classic 

December, 22, 2014
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LAS VEGAS -- Here's what we saw over the weekend at the Tarkanian Classic.

1. Stephen Zimmerman (No. 10 in ESPN 100) has always been one of the most uniquely skilled bigs in the class. However, ever since the Nike Global Challenge, his assertiveness at both ends continues to evolve. He needs to get stronger while operating on the block, but his improvement in leadership and physicality must be noted. Sprinting in transition, eye-dropping finishes, pinpoint passing and taking ownership of his team were part of the package.


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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).


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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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