Gorman player seeks to carve out own identity

He plays with two of the most highly coveted basketball prospects in the Class of 2015 at Bishop Gorman High.

Unlike his frontcourt teammates — Stephen Zimmerman and Chase Jeter — he’s not a top-10 player in the nation. He doesn’t have a set position, and some would argue he’s a bit undersized for the next level. At times, he’d be the first to admit, it can be hard to distinguish yourself in such a crowded pack.

So after helping the Gaels win their third consecutive state title in February, Nick Blair made it a point to carve out his own identity. He chose Belmont Shore, an AAU team based out of Long Beach, Calif, as the platform.

With only one true big man on the roster, Blair has been able to do things he’s not exactly accustomed to. Hundreds of coaches, scouts and fans caught a glimpse Thursday at the Las Vegas Fab 48 tournament at Gorman.

“I just felt that I’d be able to expand my game more here,” Blair said after his team’s 62-60 win over Upward Stars South Carolina. “I’m able to go inside and outside with Belmont Shore. Obviously with Gorman, I won’t be inside as much. Playing with (Zimmerman and Jeter), it’s kind of hard to show what you have at times. I think being able to stay away from that and do my own thing helps me out, and it shows what I can do.”

Blair plays on an undersized Belmont Shore team with Tyler Dorsey, an undeclared five-star shooting guard from Los Angeles, and Vance Jackson, a top recruit in the Class of 2016. Dorsey hit two free throws with five seconds left to lift Belmont and finished with 23 points, eight rebounds and six assists. Jackson scored 16 and Blair four.

Across the country, Blair, a 6-foot-5-inch swingman, has become known as a leaper. His AAU coach, Dinos Trigonis, “conservatively” estimates that Blair has a 44- to 46-inch vertical jump. It’s what has given him the nickname “Air Blair.”

“It started my freshman year,” Blair said. “I was constantly dunking, and somebody just came out and said ‘Air Blair.’ After that, it just started to take off.”

Few players match Blair’s athleticism and ability to make a crowd go frantic. His posterization of a Reno High player in the state semifinals last season is still brought up. The dunk almost makes you forget that he threw down a 360 dunk the following day in the state championship game.

As a junior, Blair averaged 10.5 points, 6.4 rebounds and 3.0 assists. His goal this summer was to improve all aspects of his game, something he thinks he is doing effectively.

“Everything is starting to come along really smoothly,” he said. “Overall, I’ve been playing pretty well in AAU. My strong suit right now is attacking the basket and getting to the free-throw line. I’m still working at improving my jump shot and handling the ball.”

His coach couldn’t agree more.

“All the physical tools are there for him to play at the highest level,” Trigonis said. “He’s always been a big-time athlete. All the pieces of his game are starting to come together now.”

Blair is a three-star prospect in the Class of 2015 and the No. 5 player in Nevada, according to ESPN.

He is considering Arizona State, California, Louisiana Tech, UNR, Oregon State, Portland, Rice, Tulsa and Utah.

Contact reporter Ashton Ferguson at aferguson@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0430. Follow him on Twitter: @af_ferguson.

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