Could freshman center Stephen Zimmerman have just played his final game in a UNLV jersey?
In a release Monday night, UNLV interim coach Todd Simon announced that Zimmerman will be out indefinitely due to a sprained knee that was sustained on a rather ugly play after the whistle where Fresno State’s Terrell Carter seemed to twist Zimmerman’s body while contesting a tie-up.
Here’s the play that led to Stephen Zimmerman’s leg injury pic.twitter.com/XMU9YbkfnN
— Mike Grimala (@MikeGrimala) February 7, 2016
Definitely a play within the basketball’s gray area, and because of it UNLV will be without one of its best players for the foreseeable future.
Zimmerman’s freshman season in college basketball has been solid if unspectacular thus far. On one hand, he’s averaging 10.6 points, 9.1 rebounds and 2.1 blocks per game with solid rebounding and block rates on a per-possession basis. Overall, he’s also been pretty solid on the defensive end of the floor. On the other hand though, he’s been pretty inconsistent offensively, posting a below-average 52 true-shooting percentage and a low assist rate for someone with a solid basketball IQ.
Knees are always pretty tricky, so it’s tough to say how long you can expect Zimmerman to be out. Maybe he’ll be back sooner rather than later. But given that there’s under a month left in the season and UNLV is 4-7 in the Mountain West, it’s not out of the question he has played his last college game. He’s considered a potential first-round pick if he was to leave for the NBA this season. After all there are precious few big men who are mobile, can protect the rim, and occassionally knock down an 18-footer at 19-years-old while also being a legitimate 7-feet with a 7-3 wingspan. Those are the reasons he is currently No. 16 on my NBA Draft Big Board.
But given the mixed performance, the pre-draft process would be a critical one for Zimmerman. He’ll be a player teams will look forward to getting a medical check on due to some long-term injury questions. Then on top of that, he’ll need to prove his worth in workouts. The NCAA’s new rule that will allow players to return to college if they don’t like their draft stock is one that seems likely to help Zimmerman establish where exactly his status lies.
For now though, we’re left with more questions than answers as to the next time we’ll see him on a basketball court.