Sunday, Nov. 16, 2014 | 2 a.m.
They are considered the best high school basketball players in the nation. So good, in fact, experts predict they could be in the NBA in a few years when they still would be teenagers.
They are Las Vegas natives, developing their skills in our youth leagues and becoming can’t-miss college prospects after shining on the local high school circuit.
A who’s who of college programs are recruiting Las Vegas High wing Ray Smith and Bishop Gorman big men Chase Jeter and Stephen Zimmerman, who are ranked five-star prospects for the class of 2015. Centennial High sophomore guard Troy Brown Jr. might be even better. CBS Sports lists him as the nation’s No. 3 overall high school player regardless of classification, and some feel he’ll be the best player to come out of Nevada.
Talk with the players, though, and they aren’t satisfied. Being highly ranked is one thing. Delivering on the expectations is another.
“You have to remain humble, so I don’t read too much into that,” said Jeter, who is verbally committed to Duke and ranked by Rivals.com as the No. 8 prospect for the class of 2015. “It can be there and then gone at any time if you stop working.”
Stephen Zimmerman, Bishop Gorman High
• 7 foot, 240 pounds
• Ranking: No. 10 by ESPN and Rivals for the class of 2015; played for Team USA’s 18-and-under team
• How he got here: Zimmerman long has been considered a top prospect because of his height, receiving major college scholarship offers before he attended even a day of high school. He’s put on 70 pounds since his freshman year to take his game to another level. NBA Draft Central’s projection for the 2016 Draft predicts Zimmerman will be picked 15th.
“Now that I’m playing against other kids who are big, putting on muscle definitely helps,” he said. “Since my freshman year, I have definitely tried to get more aggressive and play more physical.”
• What others say: “Zimmerman is the most skilled big man in his class, both in the low post and from the high post. Inside, he demonstrates an extremely soft touch with a high release point that is hard to block.” — ESPN
Troy Brown Jr., Centennial High
• 6-5, 175 pounds
• Ranking: No. 2 for class of 2017 by Rivals and No. 3 regardless of class by CBS.
• How he got here: Brown just turned 15 and already has scholarship offers from Arizona, Duke, Kansas and Louisville. He averaged 15 points, 9.7 rebounds, 4 assists and 2.7 steals per game last season and was recognized as one of the top players at the LeBron James Skills Academy.
“Guys get too caught up in the hype,” Brown said. “That is how you settle — because you don’t push yourself more, because you think you are that guy. With a great family and teammates, it’s not hard to stay humble. They let me know who I am and keep me in my place. My parents remind me it’s just basketball.”
• What others say: “In a head-to-head matchup against Jalen Brunson, arguably the best pure point guard in 2015, Brown dominated. One NBA scout was equally impressed, asking, ‘Can we draft him now?’” — CBS
Chase Jeter, Bishop Gorman High
• 6-11, 230 pounds
• Ranking: No. 8 by Rivals and No. 9 by ESPN for the class of 2015
• How he got here: Jeter, who turned 17 in September, averaged just 7 points and 5 rebounds per game as a sophomore. But he added 30 pounds before his junior season, quickly climbing recruiting rankings and becoming one of the class of 2015’s best. His ability to run the court in transition and finish near the basket are strengths.
“Growing up, I wasn’t the most touted guy or skilled player,” Jeter said. “I’m working hard to become the best player I can be. You have to have the motivation and mindset to be great.”
• What others say: “Jeter is one of the more improved prospects on the West Coast. He is a hard-working post prospect who plays with great energy. He runs very well in transition, and he can finish with a powerful dunk. He rebounds well in his area, and his hands are good.” — ESPN
Ray Smith, Las Vegas High
• 6-7, 195 pounds
• Ranking: No. 11 by Rivals and No. 24 by ESPN for the class of 2015
• How he got here: Smith tore his ACL this summer during a Chicago scouting event, but college coaches didn’t stop courting him. A few days after the injury, Smith committed to the University of Arizona. He has remained positive during rehab, and although he’ll likely miss his senior season, Smith knows better days are ahead.
“I was watching something the other day, and a lady was asking God, ‘Why me, Why me?’ ” Smith said. “The real answer is, why not her. So why not me? I try to stay positive. I won’t sit down and sulk. I know there is more basketball ahead of me.”
Smith was a three-star prospect this time last year but rose quickly because of his relentless defense and ability to attack the rim on offense.
• What others say : “Smith is outstanding in transition, very active on both ends of the floor, and at his best, slashing to the rim.” — ESPN