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Schools eye Desert Pines’ breakout star

Nate Grimes was a rumor.

For two years, tales of a talented player circulated through local basketball circles. But few people outside of the travel circuit actually got to see him play.

Until this past season.

Grimes, a 6-foot-8-inch forward, helped Desert Pines reach the Division I-A state semifinals in his first season of varsity basketball.

And since the Jaguars’ season ended last month, Grimes has become one of the hottest prospects in the West from the class of 2015.

“We all knew he had some special qualities,” Desert Pines coach Mike Uzan said. “We knew he was a good player walking into this. He just had to have an opportunity to showcase his skills. The biggest thing was getting him to understand the process of getting eligible.”

Grimes didn’t play organized basketball until his freshman year at Cheyenne when he was placed on the ninth-grade team. The following season, Grimes was academically ineligible and unable to display his improvement.

Grimes transferred to Desert Pines during his sophomore year, and Uzan said he has been a model student since arriving.

“He did the exact things we asked him to do,” Uzan said. “It all came into place. It was a combination of everyone he’s surrounded with helping out and making him understand how things work.”

Grimes averaged a team-high 13.8 points and 9.4 rebounds, though Uzan points out those numbers could have been higher had Grimes not been forced to the bench during several blowouts. He was a first-team Division I-A All-Southern Region pick, and with his academics now in order, his recruiting has heated up.

Grimes received a scholarship offer last week from Southern California and is up to 16 known offers. Grimes is also drawing interest from several other Pac-12 Conference schools and recently started hearing from Texas and Wichita State, according to Lamar Bigby, his coach with the Las Vegas Knicks travel team.

Grimes made an unofficial visit to San Diego State on March 8 to see the Aztecs clinch the Mountain West regular-season title with a 51-48 win over New Mexico. Both of those schools, along with six others from the Mountain West, have made offers to Grimes.

One MW school that hasn’t offered is UNLV, but Uzan said the Rebels have shown interest.

“For Nate, it’s a tool for motivation,” Uzan said. “He understands he has all spring and summer and into the fall before he has to make a decision. He understands (an offer) could come down the line. I’m sure it will.”

Grimes is a four-star prospect, according to ESPN’s Recruiting Nation, and a three-star prospect by Rivals.com and Scout.com.

“He can do a lot of things and creates a lot of mismatches on the offensive end, which is the biggest attraction to a lot of (college) coaches,” Uzan said. “He has a lot of upside. He’s got a long ways to go, but he definitely works hard.”

■ OUBRE NAMED ALL-AMERICA — Findlay Prep senior swingman Kelly Oubre was one of 20 players named to the 58th annual Parade All-America team on Friday. The 6-7 Kansas signee averages a team-best 22.2 points per game along with 6.7 rebounds, 2.5 assists and 2.2 steals.

Also, the Pilots (30-4) will meet Rainier Beach (Wash.) on April 3 in the opening round of the High School National Tournament in New York. Rainier Beach (29-0), which routed Bishop Gorman 95-67 on Dec. 30, is ranked No. 3 by USA Today.

The HSNT also includes nationally ranked Montverde Academy (Fla.), Sagemont (Fla.), Northside Christian Academy (N.C.), La Lumiere (Ind.), Oak Hill Academy (Va.) and St. Joseph Prep (W.Va.), making it arguably the strongest postseason tournament in prep basketball history.

Contact reporter David Schoen at dschoen@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-5203. Follow him on Twitter: @DavidSchoenLVRJ.

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