Stephen Zimmerman (213-F-96, college: UNLV) is a 24 year old 213cm center that is playing with ERA Basketball Nymburk (Czech Republic-NBL). He was born in Hendersonville, Tennessee. He began his basketball career at Bishop Gorman High school, in Las Vegas, Nevada. He played a season with the University of Nevada – Las Vegas (NCAA) playing 26 games averaging 10.5ppg, 8.7rpg, 2.0bpg, FGP: 49.2%, 3PT: 29.4%, FT: 62.4%. He was drafted by the Orlando Magic (NBA,2rd (41). In 2016-2017 he played his rookie year with the Orlando Magic (NBA) playing 19 games averaging 1.2ppg, 1.8rpg, and played also at Erie Bay Hawks (D-League) playing 21 games averaging 13.4ppg, 8.9rpg, 1.4apg, 1.1spg, 1.3bpg, FGP: 48.8%, FT: 61.8In the 2017-2018 season he played with the South Bay Lakers (NBA G League) playing 25 games averaging 6.5ppg, 4.9rpg, FGP: 58.5%, FT: 61.9%. In the 2018-2019 season he played with the Westchester Knicks (NBA G League) playing 46 games averaging 8.3ppg, 7.0rpg, 1.6apg, FGP: 57.3%, 3PT: 33.3%, FT: 63.3%. Last season he played with the Telekom Baskets Bonn (Germany-BBL) playing 14 BBL games avergaing 6.6ppg, 5.1rpg, 1.5apg, FGP: 57.6%, FT: 60.7%; and played 16 BCL games averaging 7.4ppg, 4.3rpg, FGP: 64.0%, FT: 53.1. He spoke to germanhoops.com before a Basketball Champions League game against Brose Bamberg.
Stephen thanks for talking to germanhoops.com. Where are you at the moment and how is basketball life treating you?
Hello! Right now I am in the Czech Republic playing for Era basketball Nymburk. Basketball is good but tough, especially overseas.
But still always blessed to be playing basketball for a living.
Before we talk about your basketball career, I want to know how you experienced the whole COVID- 19 crisis after your season ended with the Telekom Baskets Bonn. What were the biggest challenges that you faced in 2020?
Yes, it was a weird situation for everyone. For me it was good and bad because my season was ending, and I didn’t really play how I wanted to so I wanted to get better stats. The good part was the season was ending and after being out of America for the first time I was excited to go home. Also my girlfriend gave birth to our first child at the beginning of the season, so being back with my family was important. Also when I got home we were in quarantine and I couldn’t play basketball or really exercise for a while. So that didn’t help my weight at all!
Everybody saw different sides of COVID-19. With everything that you experienced during COVID-19 in 2020, how do you feel did the whole experience make you stronger as a man?
I am very lucky that Covid hasn’t affected me or my family too much. Towards the end of our quarantine me and my girlfriend tested positive for Covid, and we both were sick for a couple days. It didn’t have to much of an impact on us but we were worried about our families and our new son! So he stayed with his grandparents while we got better. Seeing all of the death and misery this virus has caused we are definitely lucky nothing more happened.
Your playing your first season with Era basketball Nymburk. How has it been playing in a new country?
It has been a unique one so far, since we have been playing the whole season without any fans in the stands. But this team has a winning tradition that any player can grow to appreciate. We have been playing well in the Czech league and champions league so it’s pretty positive vibes for the most part. I think having champions league games sprinkled into our schedule definitely helps us stay locked in. Kind of a change of pace. Most Czech teams have a couple of guys that can go off for 20-30 points on us so as a team we have to take things personal and set goals for ourselves every game in preparation for champions league games.
How do you describe being able to play with a Czech legend like Petr Benda who has won 24 titles with Nymburk. Is he a guy where you can profit from his game?
Petr is a great teammate and a great guy to go at in practice every day. Even though he’s in his later years he always knows where to be and is a very smart and skilled player.
What kind of a role do you have on a team that has many scoring options? How can you best incorporate your abilities at both ends of the court?
Well I wish I had a bigger role but with this team having so many scoring options there isn’t much for me to do offensively in our system. My job is to set screens to get our great shooters open and try to crash the glass as much as possible to kick it back out to them for shots. I try to lock in defensively and grab as many rebounds as I can, run the floor on offense and make shots easier for my teammates.
Last season you played with the Telekom Baskets Bonn. What was your wake call to being overseas for the first time?
I have always been the type of person that likes being alone but after so long of it and with my just born son being at home with my girlfriend by themselves it was kind of hard for me. Now he’s 18 months and developing a personality it’s getting even harder and harder to be away from them.
You have had many teammates in your career, but how will you always remember TJ DiLeo? Was he one of the better teammates you had combing skills and character qualities?
Tj is a great guy and a great teammate! He’s the first one to take responsibility and help you when you need it.
In 2016 you were drafted by the Orlando Magic at #41 in the second round. You played 19 NBA games averaging 1,2ppg and 1,8rpg and also played with the Erie Bay Hawks (D-League) playing 21 games averaging 13.4ppg, 8.9rpg, 1.4apg, 1.1spg, 1.3bpg, FGP: 48.8%, FT: 61.8%. What was your wake up call to being in the NBA?
I would say there are a couple things. But being put in the right situation with a team that’s going to let you play and learn from your mistakes is important. A team that needs you, and helps you. Being that young in the NBA is a tough task for anyone, but some people get more help from the people around them than others. Also taking advantage of opportunities is huge, obviously. I got a chance to play against great big man with
You played your first NBA game against the Detroit Pistons logging 8 minutes and getting 4 rebounds. What do you remember from that first game. Were you in awe or actually pretty relaxed?
Basically every game I played in I felt the same, you can see I didn’t play much so when I got on the court everything was so bright. It was hard to realize it was real life. Preseason was a little different. I didn’t quite feel the pressure, so I played better. A lot of the time when something negative happened while I was in the regular season I would be subbed out right away, and most of the time sent back to the G league.
You played against the Spurs against guys like Kwahi Leonard, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobolli as well as against Lebron James. Was seeing these future legends some of your most memorable experiences that you had
in the NBA?
Yes one of my first preseason games was against Lebron and the Cavs. Having Kevin Love guard me was something I’ll always remember. Also driving and seeing Lebron coming over to help, when I passed it to Jeff Green for a lay up. Those were definitely memories I will never forget.
In your second season you played with the South Bay Lakers (NBA G League) playing 25 games averaging 6.5ppg, 4.9rpg, FGP: 58.5%, FT: 61.9%. How tough was this season after coming from the NBA and averaging 29 minutes in the G-League, you logged only 15 minutes per game with South Bay.
It was really tough. For my parents being in the G league at all was frowned upon. So it lead into my play. I was down there feeling sorry for myself instead of trying to prove I should be in the NBA. That mixed with playing behind Thomas Bryant who was on assignment from the Lakers and playing really well with South Bay. So I didn’t get to much playing time. Also that summer I spent in the weight room and got pretty heavy. I was 275, then when the magic cut me and I went to the Lakers they said they wanted me to lose weight and that was a lot harder than I realized.
In your third professional season you played with the Westchester Knicks (NBA G League) playing 46 games averaging 8.3ppg, 7.0rpg, 1.6apg, FGP: 57.3%, 3PT: 33.3%, FT: 63.3% When did the deciding moment come where you decided to turn your back on the G-League and go overseas?
I decided to go overseas mostly because I wanted and needed to find a team that I was able to show what I can do. I want to play somewhere where I can play more than 12-15 minutes a game. I didn’t feel like I could show my skills and why I belonged in the NBA with the G-league teams I was playing with. I’m still trying to find the right spot for me.
What was the best example that you saw in your three year NBA/G-League experience where you saw first hand that the NBA is always a business first before anything else?
For me it was seeing guys in the NBA that I didn’t think deserved to be there. Guys that kept getting chance after chance but we’re doing similar or even worse than I was. I also had to cut ties with my agent at the time because I felt like he wasn’t doing anything for me. I didn’t know if it was the team that just liked those players or the people that they knew helping them stay at the top.
You played one season in the NCAA with the University of Nevada – Las Vegas (NCAA) averaging 10.5ppg, 8.7rpg, 2.0bpg FGP: 49.2%, 3PT: 29.4%, FT: 62.4%. 10.5ppg, 8.7rpg, 2.0bpg. Do you ever wonder how your career might have gone had you stayed longer in the NCAA?
Of course, unfortunately my one year in college was filled with all kinds of twists and turns. If I would have stayed another year at UNLV I would have had to play with a whole new team because they fired everyone, even the athletic director. And all but two players that were on my team left. If I would have transfered I would have had to sit out a year and then play the next. It was a tough situation so I decided to help me and my family and go straight for the NBA.
You had many great games like against Utah State and New Mexico, but if you had to pick a most memorable game what would it have been?
That’s a tough one, I loved the Oregon game because I was playing
against friends, in front of our family and friends in Vegas. I was
able to put up 12 and 12 that game with multiple blocks. Or the
Arizona game where I had gotten hurt a couple days before in practice.
I came into the game and the crowd started booing. I started the
game off strong but a couple minutes in I re-aggravated my injury and
had to sit out the rest of the game.
How did coaches Dave Rice and Todd Simon groom and prepare you best for a basketball career?
They helped a lot, Dave Rice did what he could before they wrongly fired him, and coach Simon did what he was supposed to. The whole UNLV coaching staff was filled with great guys from top to bottom along with Ryan Miller and coach Augmon.
Who won a one on one in practice you or Ben Carter?
Haha I don’t remember ever playing Ben in one on one but that’s my guy. He’s such a great player and teammate and I’m happy for how he’s playing in Israel. But I like my odds in that one on on! Haha
You are the only player in Nevada history to have won four straight state championships. What do you remember being your biggest challenge in your high school career?
For me I think it was knowing what I could do, or the player I could be and sharing it with my teammates. I played with another good big in chase Jeter and Zach Collins was on the Bench. We had good wings and guards that were also trying and capable of getting D1 offers. So sharing that limelight when I knew if it was just me I could have played 30 minutes and averaged 25 and 15 was my biggest challenge.
Please name your five best teammates of all-time?
Stephaun Branch, Ben Carter, Paul Watson, Tj DiLeo and Cj Watson in no particular order
Please list your personal NBA Mount Rushmore of past or present NBA players?
Lebron James, Shaq, Kareem, MJ. I feel like those are the best players of all time.
What is your opinion of the neverending debate of who is the greatest of all-time Michael Jordan or Lebron James?
Obviously Jordan was a once in a lifetime player, but I feel like Lebron James is the greatest.
What was the last movie that you saw?
Disturbia, Shia lebeouf is a A+ actor.
Thanks Stephen for the chat.