Junior makes impression during elite youth basketball tournament
April 14, 2022
Since he was 3 years old, power forward Zayden High has had a basketball in his hands.
As a junior, he has become one of the most highly recruited players in the state.
Zayden shot, dribbled, rebounded and drilled enough three-pointers at the Nike Elite Youth Basketball event this past weekend in Orlando to get attention from the top college basketball programs in the country.
Within a day, nine offers rained down from Texas, Michigan, Oklahoma, Alabama, Creighton, Texas Tech, Wake Forest, TCU and Kansas State.
Love at first shot
Basketball runs in the family
It’s all part of a story that started when he was a toddler.
“My parents just put a little stuffed basketball in my hands,” Zayden said, “and I’ve loved the game ever since.”
It would have been hard not to – his dad Mike played small forward and center at Southern Nazarene University in Bethany, Okla.
“Where I’m from, small town Hereford, Texas, being 6 foot 3 you’re a post player… but when you get to college it’s a little bit different because you have 7 footers,” Mike said. “So they groomed me and made the best of it, and I played 3-5 in college similar to what Z is doing, but he handles the ball way better than I did.”
Zayden followed his dad to the gym where he asked questions and took advice.
“It took him a while to realize his old man knew basketball,” Mike said, “but now he realizes I might know a little bit.”
Mike also gives credit to uncle Ty Ellis (professional player and coach) for Zayden’s foot work, David Jones for shooting and Lupe Nunez for the challenge. On top of that, Zayden’s current AAU coach John Lucas also pushes Zayden as a player and a person.
“Really his success on the the court is a true testament to how hard he was willing to work, and how determined he was to prove to himself he belonged,” Mike said. “His mom and I really put the resources in-front of him and never pushed too hard to where he would burn out. We let him chose what direction in sports he would take. He played football as well as baseball for some time. He finally chose the sport that just came natural to him.”
Making a splash
Stellar play lures top program recruiters
Zayden has been on varsity since freshman year and finished the 2021-22 season scoring 608 points for his team (21 per game) and more than 1,000 in his high school career.
Before the season started, he had the attention of recruiters at Southern Methodist University, Arkansas, Oral Roberts, Western Kentucky and Texas Rio Grande.
On Monday, The TB5 Reports published, “Zayden will/ should ENTER national rankings as a four star. He is a legitimate top 50 prospect in the country. Simply put, he can dribble, pass and shoot. Defensively, he can move his feet and guard ball screens….No question one of the top 5 prospects in the gym.”
Zayden finished second in scoring among all players at this weekend’s EYBL event, averaging 22 points per game. Following his strong performance, Stock Risers interviewed High about his options.
“My mom’s side of the family all went to Tech, so I’ve heard a bunch about them, whether it’s basketball, baseball, or even football,” Zayden told Stock Risers. “They’ve got a good atmosphere up there, for sure.”
The University of North Carolina has also expressed interest.
“(It’s) been a dream since I was a little kid to even have an interest from the same school Michael Jordan went to,” he said in the Stock Risers interview.
Not that he has made up his mind. He has more AAU basketball to play and more colleges to visit with his parents in tow.
“Both of them played,” he said. “My dad played in college, and my mom played in high school.”
He was his dad was his role model “just because he’s taught me everything I know.”
His son’s sentiment left Mike at a loss for words.
“I’ve tried to be the dad that I never had, so for him to say I’m his role model shows I wanted him to have something I didn’t,” Mike said. “it’s an honor because he has turned into a wonderful young man. As a family we would all get out there and work together, which made it easier him to buy in.”