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December 22, 2012

Zimmerman worthy of fifth star

MORE: Friday at the City of Palms Classic

LAS VEGAS -- After three good days in Fort Myers, Fla., at the City of Palms Classic, it was time to move on to Las Vegas for the inaugural Tarkanian Classic at Bishop Gorman High School. The man for whom the event was named, Jerry Tarkanian, was honored during a ceremony Friday. The legendary coach stuck around to see the next star from Sin City as sophomore Stephen Zimmerman rocked the event and showed why he is Rivals.com's newest five-star prospect in the class of 2015.

A no-brainer

A little more than two months ago, Rivals.com put together a list of four- and five-star prospects from the class of 2015. Las Vegas (Nev.) Bishop Gorman's Zimmerman just missed making five-star status.

After getting another look at the 6-foot-11 center at the Tarkanian Classic on Friday, it's clear that he is deserving of five-star status, and he was elevated that same night.

Playing against an athletic and tough Chicago (Ill.) Morgan Park squad, Zimmerman was clearly the best player and prospect on the floor. He scored 18 of his 24 points in the second half and overtime while leading Bishop Gorman to a comeback win.

Zimmerman is a bit on the skinny side, but he's started to add bulk and is playing with a level of physicality that we had not yet seen from him. On top of being big, Zimmerman is a highly fluid athlete who changes directions very well, runs the court and has outstanding balance.

Those traits, along with a nicely developed base of skills, make him a dangerous scorer in the post turning to his right or left shoulder. He's showing signs of a nice face-up game, and he will beat other big men from rim to rim in transition. On defense, he's active as a shot blocker and can go and get rebounds out of his area.

Arizona, Connecticut, Kansas, Oregon, Oregon State, UCLA and hometown UNLV, among others, have been highly involved, and his recruitment is only beginning to fire up.

Backing up the hype

Headed into Friday's action, we did know that we would see at least one five-star sophomore take the floor in Oakland (Calif.) Bishop O'Dowd big man Ivan Rabb.

The 6-foot-9 power forward didn't disappoint. His early activity en route to a game-high 18 points allowed O'Dowd to build an early lead and never look back against another California school in Redondo Union.

The thing that jumps out about Rabb is that he has great hands. He seems to catch everything that comes his way, is a high-level rebounder and does a good job of tipping or deflecting loose balls that he can't control to teammates. A good athlete, Rabb is capable of operating from either side of the rim and will face up and hit jumpers from the elbow area.

Not surprisingly, Rabb's recruitment has taken off. He mentioned that Arizona was his first offer and that California, Washington, N.C. State and UNLV followed suit shortly after. Rabb reports that he was recently offered by North Carolina and UCLA, too.

"I didn't get to talk to coach (Roy) Williams, but he talked to my mom on the phone and told her that I had a scholarship," Rabb said of his newest offers. "With UCLA, I talked to a couple of their assistants and they said that they had seen enough to offer."

Friday tip-ins

Morgan Park fell in a heartbreaker to host Bishop Gorman, but Nick Irvin's crew from Chicago showed plenty of gumption and talent. Leading the way was Dayton-bound combo guard Kyle Davis. The 6-footer is an explosive athlete who doesn't back down from anybody, and his ability to mix assaults on the rim with outside shooting will make him a tough cover in college.

DePaul signee Billy Garrett had several nice moments. Although he appeared to be a bit hobbled, the 6-foot-4 point guard made good decisions, got to the rim and hit a lot of key free throws.

He hasn't been talked about as much as his two senior teammates, but junior Josh Cunningham is proving that he's not going anywhere when it comes to the 2014 Rivals150. Ranked No. 139 nationally in his class, Cunningham is a 6-foot-6 wing who plays in the post out of necessity for Morgan Park. He doesn't sulk; he just uses his high-level athleticism and nonstop motor to get tough rebounds, score around the rim and in transition and to impact play on both ends. Oklahoma spent a few days in Vegas focusing on his play.

No longer is Rashad Muhammad in the shadow of older brother Shabazz Muhammad. The 6-foot-4 shooting guard is one of the most improved players in the country. After showing flashes of ability but mostly deferring to others earlier in his high school career, the Bishop Gorman wing has come into his own as a senior. Actually, we don't imagine there are many better remaining prospects on the West Coast in the class of 2013.

He can shoot with range, is crafty with the bounce and is playing with a level of aggression and confidence that we've not seen before. We understand that Muhammad has been a bit of a late bloomer but find it very surprising that as of Friday night he was without any scholarship offers. Utah State, Tulsa, Nevada, San Diego State and others have done some tire kicking, and it's time for programs to start making more serious overtures.

As it turns out, Class of 2015 big men were kind of a theme on Friday. Four-star Cheick Diallo of Centereach (N.Y.) Our Savior New American was impressive as well. The 6-foot-9 power forward is a high-level shot blocker and athlete who plays aggressively and sprints the floor like he's running the 100-meter dash. Seriously, his ability to block a shot on one end and race to the other to finish or be involved in a play on the offensive end is uncanny. Like any young big man, he's a bit raw on the offensive end, but he's far from without skill. He has touch to about eight feet and looks to have confidence when he catches the ball in the lane.

While we're at it with Our Savior, keep an eye on 6-foot-7 freshman Kassoum Yakwe. It's probably best to list him as a combo forward and let him develop before putting too many expectations on him. But he's an athletic standout who looks to have some feel on the offensive end, and he's not afraid of getting physical.



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