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Rebels basketball:

UNLV target Zimmerman still weighing options on college decision

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Steve Marcus

Ronald McDonald poses with high school basketball players, from left, Stephen Zimmerman, Allonzo Trier and Chase Jeter, during a send-off party at McDonald’s, 6690 S. Rainbow Blvd., Tuesday, March 24, 2015. The players were selected for the McDonald’s All-American high school basketball game in Chicago on April 1 on April 1.

McDonald’s All-American Send-Off Party

Ronald McDonald poses with high school basketball players, from left, Stephen Zimmerman, Allonzo Trier and Chase Jeter, during a send-off party at McDonald's, 6690 S. Rainbow Blvd., Tuesday, March 24, 2015. The players were selected for the McDonald's All-American high school basketball game in Chicago on April 1 on April 1. Launch slideshow »

The answer really wasn’t an answer, at least in the definitive form most would prefer, but that’s been a consistent part of Bishop Gorman High’s Stephen Zimmerman’s recruitment. Zimmerman is taking his time deciding where to commit, and a week ahead of the McDonald’s All-American game in Chicago he said there’s no real update on the timetable.

“It’s a hard decision,” Zimmerman said. “I’m still talking to my parents about it and my friends.”

Zimmerman was attending a special send-off at a McDonald’s on South Rainbow Boulevard for the three locals who will participate in this year’s game April 1 in Chicago at the United Center. Joining him are Findlay Prep guard Allonzo Trier, an Arizona signee, and Gorman teammate Chase Jeter, a Duke signee who last week was named Nevada’s Gatorade Player of the Year for boy’s basketball.

Jeter and Zimmerman join Gorman alum Shabazz Muhammad (2012) as participants in the game while Trier is the ninth Pilot to participate, following UNLV freshman Rashad Vaughn and Kansas freshman Kelly Oubre Jr. last season.

Some players use the spotlight of McDonald’s game or the Jordan Brand Classic on April 17 in Brooklyn, N.Y., — Zimmerman and Trier are participants — to announce their commitment. Though he didn’t guarantee he wouldn’t be doing that, Zimmerman said that other players announcing at those games could help him with his decision as he figures out what each school’s roster will look like next season.

UNLV was the first school to offer a scholarship to Zimmerman, then a 14-year-old freshman-to-be, in 2011. Since then the Rebels have been a consistent presence in his recruitment and are considered by many as the favorite to land the nearly 7-footer out of a group of finalists that also includes UCLA, Kentucky, Arizona and Kansas.

Those fortunes might have changed had the university not decided last week to give coach Dave Rice at least another season. Zimmerman said he wasn’t really following the situation — it appeared that Athletic Director Tina Kunzer-Murphy might fire Rice a year after giving him an extension — but that it could have changed his decision-making process.

“It’s a great thing that he was given another year,” Zimmerman said.

The entire Findlay Prep team came to McDonald’s to support Trier, and UNLV commit Justin Jackson said he was following Rice’s status much more closely. Jackson reached out to UNLV assistant coach Todd Simon, a former Findlay Prep coach, for updates.

“He guided me through it, he told me don’t worry, he calmed the storm for me,” said Jackson, a Canada native. “I have faith in Coach Rice and everyone else that was supporting him so I had no worries.”

If Zimmerman did commit to UNLV and stay only one season — Zimmerman has said he wants to get to the pros sooner than later — it’s still possible that he and Jackson, a class of 2016 forward, could be teammates. There’s been speculation since before this season that Jackson would reclassify to 2015, and Jackson said nothing’s been decided either way.

“It’s not 100 percent yet,” Jackson said. “I have to talk to my parents and coaches and see what’s best for me.”

Jackson’s eligibility is supposedly in order to make the jump, and physically he feels capable of playing Division I. Much like Zimmerman monitoring each of his final programs' comings and goings, Jackson’s decision could come down to something like whether UNLV’s Vaughn returns for a sophomore season.

“I feel like I’d be ready,” Jackson said. “I think I’m ready right now, to be honest, but it’s all about patience and time. I’ve got to make sure the situation is right.”

Taylor Bern can be reached at 948-7844 or tayl[email protected]. Follow Taylor on Twitter at twitter.com/taylorbern.

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