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Elite 2014 recruit cites religion as a major deciding factor

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FORT WAYNE, In. — High school basketball recruits usually have a few specific traits in mind as they sift through scholarship offers trying to decide on a school. Most players will cite similar things like a relationship with the coach, the style of play, or the chance to play for a league or national title.

But for elite class of 2014 forward Leron Black, a native of Memphis and the No. 16 prospect in the class of 2014 according to Rivals, he has a very important and specific factor in mind when he chooses his future program: Religion.

While religious beliefs have been in a factor in the recruitment of other players before, it is rare to hear a player cite religion as a main reason for deciding on a program.

“The main thing I’m looking for is I’m big on my Christianity, so I want to be somewhere where I can express that and spread it around and the coaches won’t have a problem with it,” Black explained to NBC Sports.

Black went on to explain his reason for using religion as the primary factor in his basketball future. The 6-8 forward from White Station High School currently claims scholarship offers from Florida, Connecticut, Illinois, Baylor, Ohio State, North Carolina State, Georgia Tech and Tennessee.

“(My Christianity) plays a big role in my life, I pray and read my Bible every day,” Black said. “It’s really big in my household and important to me and my family.”

While Black is still early in the recruiting process and not intent on making any visits anytime soon, he is still fielding calls from coaches and going through the process at his own pace. Interestingly enough, Black was once committed to Baylor, but decommited after he felt he wasn’t ready to decide his future.

“I still love the coaching staff and everybody over there, I just thought I committed too early,” Black said of the Baylor situation. “I wanted to take some time and I wanted to make sure that (the school) was the place God wanted me to be.”

The focus for Black right now is to get healthy after missing most of the spring with an ankle injury. While Black’s trademark lift and explosiveness is noticeably down at the Bill Hensley Memorial Run-N-Slam, he is playing his way back into shape with Team Thad.

“I hadn’t played in like three weeks so this is my first time playing in awhile. I just have to get my feel back,” Black said. “I hurt my ankle and I had past ankle injuries to the same ankle so the doctor just told me I needed some time to rest and heal.”

UNLV’s Stephen Zimmerman out with a knee injury

UNLV forward Stephen Zimmerman Jr. shoots against San Diego State during an NCAA college basketball game Saturday, Jan. 30, 2016, in Las Vegas. (L.E. Baskow/Las Vegas Sun via AP)
(L.E. Baskow/Las Vegas Sun via AP)
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The injury Stephen Zimmerman suffered on Saturday will keep the star UNLV freshman out for at least a week, a source told NBC Sports.

The injury is not thought to be serious, however. Zimmerman may be kept out for longer as a precaution, but that’s a result of the Runnin’ Rebels being in a situation where the rest of their regular season is relatively meaningless.

They’re not getting an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament regardless of how they finish out league play. With back-up center Ben Carter out with a torn ACL, it’s more important to make sure that Zimmerman, who is averaging 10.6 points and 9.1 boards this season, is totally healthy for the Mountain West tournament.

That tournament, mind you, will be played at UNLV’s Thomas & Mack Center.

So the Runnin’ Rebels, regardless of how poor they’ve played this season, will always have a chance to land an automatic bid.

Anyway, the more interesting aspect of this story is how Zimmerman injured the knee. It was a completely avoidable play that came after the whistle, but I’m not sure it was what you would call a “dirty play”. You tell me:

VIDEO: Buddy Hield is ‘all money’ on game-winning three vs. No. 24 Texas

Oklahoma guard Buddy Hield (24) takes a shot over Oklahoma State forward Chris Oliver during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game in Stillwater, Okla., Wednesday, Jan. 13, 2016. (AP Photo/Brody Schmidt)
(AP Photo/Brody Schmidt)
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With a little more than three minutes left on Monday night, No. 24 Texas held a 57-51 lead on No. 3 Oklahoma in Norman as Jordan Woodard struggled again and Buddy Hield failed to find the rhythm that he had throughout the first three months of the season.

At that point in the game, Hield was 4-for-14 from the floor with 15 points and four turnovers. He had just missed a pair of wide-open threes

“I couldn’t make a shot,” Hield said after the game. But that changed down the stretch. First, Hield finally got a three to drop. On the next possession, he got all the way to the rim and scored. On the following two possessions, he was fouled on a drive to the rim and hit four free throws. And after missing a pull-up jumper, Hield did this:

“I told coach I wanted the ball,” Hield said, “I saw Lammert coming to bite, so I pulled up.”

“It’s all money.”

Hield is already the favorite to win National Player of the Year, and this performance is only going to help his cause further. Think about it like this: Buddy was not good on Monday night, at least according to his (admittedly lofty) standards. But he still finished with 27 points and shook off a cold shooting night just in time to take over down the stretch.

Now think about this: Hield’s head coach has enough confidence in him to hand him the keys in the final minutes despite the fact that he’s struggling and on a team that has two other players that Lon Kruger trusts on game-winning possessions. Think about it. When Oklahoma beat West Virginia at the buzzer, it was Jordan Woodard that the play was drawn up for. When they beat LSU, it was Isaiah Cousins that got the rock on the final possession while Hield was used as a decoy. .

Want to talk about coaching luxuries?

Kruger has three guards that can shoot, penetrate and score, and penetrate and kick, and one of them is the National Player of the Year that doesn’t mind being used as a decoy.