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Make-or-break month: Division I hopeful Zac Nuttall finishes July on a high note

Jeff Eisenberg
The Dagger

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Zac Nuttall during the Fab 48 in Las Vegas (Kristy Nuttall)

To provide a window into the pressure facing borderline recruits trying to earn their first Division I scholarship offers, Yahoo! Sports will track guard Zac Nuttall during the July evaluation period. This is the fourth installment in the series.

Unlike most people when they return home from a long weekend in Las Vegas, Zac Nuttall left with no regrets.

In his final event of the July evaluation period this past weekend, Nuttall helped lead BTI Select all the way to semifinals of the prestigious Fab 48 tournament by playing aggressive defense on one end and making smart decisions whether to shoot or pass at the other. It was an ideal way for 6-foot-1 point guard to prove to the college coaches who watched him in Las Vegas how much he has improved the last few months.

"I think I played really well," Nuttall said. "I was really consistent. I tried to direct traffic, run our offense and make the extra pass to set up my teammates. I think I led the team really well."

A strong finish to the July evaluation period leaves Nuttall confident he'll have the chance to play college basketball and optimistic he may yet receive scholarship offers from some lower-level Division I programs. Since most Division I coaches use July to pair down their list of top Class of 2013 targets, Nuttall treated the last three weeks like they were his last chance to prove he could compete at college basketball's highest level.

The next phase of the recruiting process for Nuttall and his family is to wait for feedback to arrive from the coaches who have watched him the past few weeks. Once they're able to gauge which schools merely gave him a cursory look and which ones appear genuinely interested, they'll decide which elite camps to attend in August and where to set up visits for later in the summer or fall.

"We'll kind of see where we stand at that point," mother Kristy Nuttall said. "I know coaches are talking to (BTI Select coach Craig Stover) about Zac and I know Coach Stover did get some texts asking where Zac is playing and how he was doing and that kind of thing. We've tried really hard to not have those conversations with Zac to not put more pressure on him, but I think it will be interesting in the next couple weeks to see who's there and who's not."

At this point, the Nuttall's believe there are three possible paths their son could take.

• He could accept an offer from a lower-tier Division I program if one shows sufficient interest in him in the coming months. Schools such as Cal Poly, Yale and San Diego have watched him this summer, but their level of interest is unclear. It would be a dream come true for Nuttall to play at college basketball's highest level, yet he also wants to make sure he's at a school where he'll have the chance to make an impact during his four years there.

• He could attend a Division II or Division III school with a strong basketball program and a good academic reputation. Again Nuttall cannot be sure which schools will take him, but it seems likely he'll have plenty of options at this level. Among the programs that showed the most interest during the July evaluation period were Whitman College, Connecticut College and Pomona Pitzer.

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Zac Nuttall during the Fab 48 tournament in Las Vegas (Kristy Nuttall)

• He could bulk up and improve his game for a year at an East Coast prep school in hopes of attracting greater interest from Division I programs the following year. This is an option that is more attractive to Nuttall and his parents now than it was a month ago because they were able to learn more about what prep schools can offer during their trip to Boston three weeks ago. Nuttall and his mom visited Northfield Mount Hermon and spoke to coaches from various other prep schools.

Stover, Nuttall's coach with BTI Select, plans to advise Nuttall to attend elite camps at Division I Loyola Marymount and Division III Point Loma this month to get a better understanding of what level he'd thrive at in college.

"That gives him the spectrum of both ends," Stover said. "It gives everyone a chance to see what level he'll fit in the best. You're going over here at LMU against Anthony Ireland and all those guys. Can you really handle that? Or the Point Loma point guard, are you taking advantage of that guy? Is that the better fit?"

Nuttall's college basketball future is only slightly clearer today than it was entering July, but the West Ranch High School senior-to-be believes it will work out for the best. From shooting and ball handling drills by himself, to grueling workouts with trainers, to dozens of practices and games, Nuttall knows he did all he could the past few months.

"I don't really have any regrets," he said. "I think I played well. I think the mistakes I made were mistakes I needed to make to learn from. I'm satisfied with how I did. There's always room for improvement, but what I've done I'm happy with it."

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