Stephen Zimmerman needed a good laugh, so a few months ago he went into his bedroom closet and grabbed his shoes.
After pulling out more than 70 pairs, Zimmerman placed them side by side and formed a line of size 19s that went down the stairs, through the lower part of his house and out the front door, eventually stopping in the driveway next to the family’s van.
Then, with smartphone in hand, the rising junior at Bishop Gorman sprinted alongside the trail of footwear making two, six-second videos of his handiwork that he uploaded to the Internet.
At the end of the second video, a mop-topped Zimmerman delivered his one-word punchline.
“He knows on the court it’s all business, but around friends and in the safety of his own home he still likes to be funny and silly and goofy,” said Zimmerman’s stepmom, Lori. “We just try to keep him humble and allow him to do the things normal 16-year-olds do for as long as possible.”
Zimmerman is an avid cartoon watcher and still stages indoor dunk contests with his 9-year-old sister Kylie. But the 7-foot merry prankster also knows it’s nearly time to settle down and get serious.
Zimmerman is ranked by one recruiting service as the No. 1 player in the class of 2015, and the center/power forward will be one of the feature attractions this week at the adidas Super 64 tournament, one of three local AAU tournaments that will cap off the July evaluation period for college recruiters.
The adidas Super 64 tips off today at multiple gyms across the valley and concludes Sunday, as does the Las Vegas Classic. The Las Vegas Fab 48 opens Thursday and finishes Sunday.
“A lot of people think there’s a lot of pressure and stuff with more people coming to see you,” Zimmerman said. “But it is all a game and we’re doing it for fun. Eventually, we’ll do it for money, hopefully. But now it’s just a game, so there’s not a lot of pressure and stuff like that, to me at least.”
Zimmerman was a key figure in Gorman’s run to a second straight state title in February, averaging 13.3 points, 11.5 rebounds and 4.6 blocks per game as a sophomore for the Gaels.
Last month, he stood out against many of the country’s best players during the Pangos All-American Camp at Long Beach, Calif., and the National Basketball Player’s Association Top 100 Camp at Charlottesville, Va.
Largely on the strength of those showings, Zimmerman, who missed almost all of the 2012 AAU season due to torn meniscus in his right knee, jumped from No. 5 to the top spot in Scout.com’s rankings for the class of 2015. He is ranked No. 2 by Rivals.com.
“What separates Stephen is his basketball IQ and the way he passes the ball,” Dream Vision 17U coach Clayton Williams said. “He has the skill set of a two-guard or a small forward in the body of a 7-footer.
“As he gets older and fills out and gets stronger, he’s going to be that much more dominant.”
Since Scout.com’s rankings were released July 1, Zimmerman has garnered even more attention than usual on the summer circuit.
A throng of recruiters, reporters and fans followed him and his Dream Vision teammates earlier this month during the adidas Invitational at Indianapolis. Last week at the Under Armour Summer Jam at Mequon, Wis., the left-hander wowed onlookers and set the Internet abuzz with one particular play.
Zimmerman caught a pass in transition, dribbled once then spun into the lane and threw down a vicious two-handed dunk while being fouled. The move capped a 27-point performance and helped Dream Vision reach the final 16 of the tournament.
“I heard my entire team going crazy and I heard the crowd, they were talking about it after the game,” Zimmerman said. “That play shows that I can run and that I have footwork and can read the defense. It sums me up.”
Zimmerman has been on recruiters’ radars since he was in eighth grade — he earned a scholarship offer from UNLV coach Dave Rice before he even enrolled at Gorman — and got a sneak peek at the madness of recruiting during his freshman year as Shabazz Muhammad’s teammate.
On June 15 of this year, the first day coaches were permitted to contact recruits in the class of 2015, Lori Zimmerman said her phone started ringing at midnight and didn’t stop until late that night.
Zimmerman currently has offers from 22 schools, including most of college basketball’s heavy hitters.
“A lot of people told me I’m going to get talked to a lot, but you can’t really prepare for how it really is,” Zimmerman said. “You go to places and see a whole bunch of people that know about you, it’s pretty crazy.”
Zimmerman said he may take a few unofficial visits next month but will not narrow his list of schools until fall at the earliest.
For now, he is trying to savor the remainder of his childhood while continuing to get stronger.
“This summer I’m just worrying about getting better and having fun and enjoying it,” Zimmerman said. “I think I’ve done a pretty good job so far in the summer of showing everybody what I can do. I’m always looking forward to keeping that up.”
Contact reporter David Schoen at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-387-5203. Follow him on Twitter: @DavidSchoenLVRJ.