Stephen Zimmerman hopes motor, range enough for Sixers late in 1st round

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Every NBA prospect hopes teams classify them as “having a good motor.” Even if they're a bit short in the talent department, hustle, energy, durability and consistent effort are largely under their control. For many players outside the lottery, that intangible quality is the factor that ultimately persuades a team to use a pick or summer league roster spot on them.

Out of the six players the Sixers worked out at the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine on Wednesday, Stephen Zimmerman is likely the only one who will be selected in the draft. Bryn Forbes (Michigan State), Retin Obasohan (Alabama), David Walker (Northeastern), Stefan Jankovic (Hawaii) and Grandy Glaze of Grand Canyon will, in all probability, end up trying to earn a spot with teams as an undrafted free agent, whether here or overseas.

Zimmerman, however, is projected to go anywhere from the late-first round to the middle of the second. Since the Sixers hold the 24th and 26th picks, it’s no surprise he’s on the their radar (not that they need another center).

A McDonald’s All-American in high school, the Las Vegas native was a prized signing for UNLV. Unfortunately for the Rebels, the 7-foot, 234-pound lefty left after one year in which he averaged 10.5 points and 8.7 rebounds, while playing 26.2 minutes. Zimmerman missed seven games because of an illness and a mild knee injury, which may explain why he’s aiming to convince teams his motor is not an issue.

“The main things I wanted to show (Wednesday) were my motor," he said, "and that I’m able to run up and down the floor as a big guy.”

Another perceived weakness Zimmerman recognizes is his strength, or lack thereof. He’s no beanpole, but Zimmerman knows he needs to bulk up to cope with the power of NBA centers.

“The biggest thing I need to improve is my body, just working on getting stronger,” he said. “I also can get better at playing with more aggression, more often.” 

Matched up against 6-foot-11 Hawaii junior and Big West Player of the Year Jankovic in 3-on-3 scrimmages, Zimmerman clearly was looking to score, even grabbing a rebound at one point and lumbering coast to coast before realizing it probably wasn’t the brightest idea and dishing the ball to a guard. 

He noted he feels most comfortable shooting mid-range jumpers, although he can stretch out to three-point territory, a unique quality for a 7-footer. Despite not having the smoothest release or perfect rotation on his shot, Zimmerman more than held his own during three-point shooting drills. After attempting only 17 three-pointers at UNLV (making five) in an offense that primarily called upon him to score out of the post and with his mid-range jumper, he'll have to prove he can be a threat from deep.

It’s easy to envision him as a player who creates matchup problems for opposing defenses if he hones that shot and gains enough muscle to not be a liability defending down low. After the intense, physical session — Obasohan at one point limped away after slashing to the hole and falling hard on his back but returned to the workout — Zimmerman left an impression. 

“He’s versatile, can put the ball on the floor, and is a good athlete," Jankovic said. "I really like his game." 

For Glaze, this opportunity with the Sixers was his first and, thus far, only NBA workout. Glaze, who played at Grand Canyon under former Suns forward Dan Majerle, is currently in the school’s Masters Business program, the Colangelo School of Business. 

Like Zimmerman, Glaze “wanted to show [his] motor, really bring my hard hat and be a team guy.” Unlike Zimmerman, Glaze’s motor won’t be enough to compensate for his small school and weaknesses as a player.

The teenager from UNLV, however, has a shot at the first round and being selected by the rebuilding Sixers. As Philly fans know, any player who actually shows a real “motor” night after night will be beloved by this city. 

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