Sam Morris / Las Vegas Sun
Saturday, May 10, 2014 | 2 a.m.
Zach Collins couldn’t dunk until his freshman season at Bishop Gorman High.
Despite Collins standing 6-foot-6, his athleticism was still evolving, and his style of play didn’t include soaring above the rim.
That changed one day after practice. He dunked for the first time, a milestone for any player.
“Now it’s become addicting. I have to finish,” Collins said.
Collins, a sophomore power forward and center, has developed into one of Southern Nevada’s top prospects in one quick year. That claim was validated last month when he received his first scholarship offer, coming first from New Mexico and days later from hometown UNLV.
Two weeks ago, Collins' recruiting stock reached another level. After excelling during an AAU tournament in Dallas, Collins has received offers from Arizona and USC to bring his scholarship tally to five. He also has gotten offers from Cal and New Mexico.
“I was shocked,” he said of the recruiting attention. “I’m blessed to be getting offers right now because most kids don’t get that until their junior year. It was a long road. There was a span where coaches weren’t talking to me.”
Part of Collins’ development includes growing. He’s now 6-foot-10, gradually learning how to use his longer arms and taller frame to have success.
“My body is coming into its own. I was a big kid with no athleticism,” he said.
Someone with a scholarship offer from Arizona is typically a star on his high school team. But Collins comes off the bench at Gorman, backing up Chase Jeter and Stephen Zimmerman, two five-star recruits from the class of 2015.
Competing against them each day in practice has helped transform his game.
“The confidence from playing against two All-Americans every single day has really elevated his game,” Gorman coach Grant Rice said. “They have had some battles, but Zach never gave in. They were getting the best of him in the beginning, but by mid-to-late season he had really stepped up his game.”
Collins, who averaged six points and four rebounds per game last season, was more than a bench player for one of Gorman’s most significant wins of the season. After Jeter fouled out against Findlay Prep, Collins buried a 3-pointer in overtime to give Gorman the lead for good, scoring all five of his points in overtime.
Findlay Prep, the Henderson-based national power, features some of the nation’s top recruits. By not backing down, Collins not only helped Gorman get its signature win, he developed confidence in his ability.
“That’s obviously a statement. That helped his confidence,” Rice said. “We knew he had it in him. You could see it start with the Findlay Prep game.”
UNLV coach Dave Rice (the brother of Gorman’s Rice) and assistant Todd Simon were front-and-center for the game, clearly liking what they saw from Collins. About three months later, Collins said Rice sent a text message to his father and invited them to his UNLV office. There, Collins picked up the UNLV offer.
“If I went there (to UNLV), I would fit in with the way I play,” Collins said.