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Winners wanted: Gorman star Zaon Collins emerges as top recruiting target for UNLV

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Wade Vandervort

Gorman’s Zaon Collins (10) moves around Clark defender Cameron Kimble (12) during a game at Bishop Gorman high school, Monday, Jan. 14, 2019.

The book is out on Zaon Collins.

Heading into his junior season at Bishop Gorman, the 6-foot point guard is capable of doing just about anything his position requires. Collins is quick enough to beat defenders off the dribble, he’s fast enough to punish opponents in transition, he’s a tough defender, and he can score when he has to — as evidenced by a signature performance against Clark last season, when Collins poured in 10 points in the second overtime period to lead Gorman to double-OT victory.

But all of that stuff is secondary. Any scouting report on Collins has to begin with one word: Winner.

Other kids in the Las Vegas area have put up better statistics than Collins, but when it comes to winning games there may not be a more valuable player at the high-school level.

Gaels’ coach Grant Rice has worked with plenty of 5-star recruits during his time at Bishop Gorman, but when it comes to winning games Collins gets Rice’s strongest endorsement.

“The first thing, No. 1 is he’s a winner,” Rice said. “That’s the way to describe him. He just wins games. Whoever he’s playing against — and he’s been playing all over the place on the Nike circuit, with Gorman, on the national level — he usually comes out with the win. He’s the ultimate teammate.”

Last year, Collins averaged 10 points and seven assists per contest while guiding a stacked Gorman squad to a 28-5 record and its eighth straight state championship. In the title game (also against Clark), Collins finished with 14 points.

Collins is currently rated as a 4-star prospect, and the 247Sports composite rankings have him as the No. 98 player in the country.

None of those numbers matter to Collins, however.

“I’m just a hard worker, a dude that likes playing defense, a dude that likes sharing the ball,” Collins said. “I can score when I need to. I’m a winner and I hate to lose. That’s pretty much it.”

There’s a college team in town that just happens to need winners. After missing the NCAA tournament the last six years, UNLV is in desperate need of players who impact the win-loss column in a positive way. That’s why head coach T.J. Otzelberger has offered Collins a scholarship and made the young distributor perhaps the Rebels’ top recruiting target in the Class of 2021.

Collins said he is still early in his recruitment and is listening to all schools, but that UNLV has made an impression.

“The relationship is good,” Collins said. “My parents love UNLV. They love the coaches, they love the campus and they like it especially because it’s close to home. I’d definitely consider it, but right now I’m keeping my options open.”

Putting a distributor like Collins in a wide-open offense like Otzelberger’s would seem to be a good fit, but the Rebels will undoubtedly have stiff competition for his services. Collins also has offers from schools such as Arizona State, TCU and Washington, and the list of suitors only figures to get longer as Collins distinguishes himself further in 2019-20.

Bishop Gorman lost star forward Isaiah Cottrell to transfer, so Collins is expected to take a step forward as a junior and produce even more as the Gaels go for title No. 9.

“He is a true point guard in every way,” Rice said. “That’s what I love. I love a guard who can get to the basket and kick it out for a jump shot, and he loves doing that. He loves getting guys open shots. He makes the game a lot easier for his teammates and I think that’s what college coaches are looking for as well.”

Expect Otzelberger and his assistant coaches to be regulars at Gorman games this season.

“I know that coach Otzelberger has definitely made him a priority,” Rice said. “They’ve made that clear. We’ll have to see what happens.”

Despite the added pressure on the court and a recruitment process that is about to increase in intensity, Collins said he will continue to focus on one thing only.

“My goal is just to win,” he said. “Find my teammates, find open guys, move the ball, run in transition. If I do the things my coaches want me to do, the game will open up.”

And as for his reputation as the ultimate winner?

“It’s big just to know that people say that,” Collins said. “When I step on the court, that’s the only thing on my mind, doing the things I can do to win. That’s the only thing I care about.”

Mike Grimala can be reached at 702-948-7844 or [email protected]. Follow Mike on Twitter at twitter.com/mikegrimala.

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