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 third installment in the series.
Unlike most of his peers who rush to the DMV to take their driving test soon after they turn 16, Zac Nuttall is in no hurry to get his license.
The 17-year-old has spent so much time this summer playing basketball, working out with trainers or getting up shots at the gym that car rides with his parents to practices or games are the only time he has to rest. Nuttall napped much of the time the family spent in the car last week driving 120 miles a day to and from the Best of the Summer Tournament in Anaheim.
"A lot of his buddies will say, 'I can't believe you don't have your driver's license yet,'" mother Kristy Nuttall said. "He'll tell them, 'I don't have a problem being driven around.'"
The extra rest Nuttall got courtesy of his parents could only have aided his attempts to convince college coaches in attendance in Anaheim he's worthy of a spot on their rosters. The point guard played five games in three nights, helping lead BTI Select to three wins in its first four games before its tournament ended Friday night with a one-point overtime loss in the quarterfinals.
Although the tournament-ending loss was a disappointment for a BTI team that led by 10 at halftime and had hopes of winning the event, Nuttall's performance during the week was once again solid. He shot the ball consistently well, he was aggressive going to the rim and he made good decisions as point guard.
In Nuttall's best game, a win over Idaho Select on Friday afternoon, he looked particularly comfortable and confident running the team. He fell one assist shy of a double-double and did not commit a single turnover, a stat line that put a smile on the face of his coach.
"The night before I was on him about his assist-to-turnover ratio and how important that is to scouts, so I was very proud of him that he did not turn the ball over one time," BTI Select coach Craig Stover said. "He's making really good decisions in tight, uncomfortable situations. I think that's the biggest part of being a good lead guard is being able to make the right decisions."
Performances like that one are especially vital for Nuttall during the three-week July evaluation period, the only stretch of the summer in which the NCAA allows college coaches to evaluate prospects in person. Since most Division I coaches will have a pretty good idea who their top Class of 2013 targets are by the end of July, Nuttall believes this is likely his last chance to prove he can compete at college basketball's highest level.
Zac Nuttall defends an opposing guard in Anaheim (photo by Kristy Nuttall)It's difficult for Nuttall to tell if he has managed to drum up any further Division I interest with his play this summer, but it seems like he'll have plenty of options at the Division II and III level should he choose to go that route.
Among the coaches who watched every one of his games in Anaheim and expressed heavy interest in him through Stover is Eric Bridgeland, a former Pepperdine assistant who now coaches Division III Whitman College. The staff at Division III Connecticut College has now begun emailing Nuttall as well after scouting him in Massachusetts last week.
Nuttall and his parents are eager to get a better idea of what programs are most interested, but they try to be as patient as possible. Asking Stover for hourly updates or refreshing their email every 30 seconds won't help Nuttall's chances. Only playing consistently the rest of the month will.
"It's hard not knowing, but I have to understand coaches are not allowed to talk to me right now," Nuttall said. "Sometimes I'd just like to know if I'm doing good or what I can do better to make them more interested in me."
Up next for Nuttall is BTI Select's final tournament of the July evaluation period, the prestigious Fab 48 in Las Vegas. Nuttall and his teammates practiced for three hours a day Monday and Tuesday in hopes of putting themselves in position to atone for the tough loss in Anaheim and a loss in the title game of the Fab 48 a year ago.
Fatigue from a busy summer has taken its toll on Nuttall, but his rigorous schedule has also helped in at least one aspect: He hasn't had time to worry too much about which schools have or have not shown interest in him.
"You truly don't have a ton of time to dwell on it because you're so darn busy," Kristy Nuttall said. "He comes home from practice and goes to the gym to get some shots up for a couple hours or he has two workouts, grabs some dinner and goes back to the gym to get a pool workout in. It's tough, but it's almost a blessing in a way because it does keep him occupied. He doesn't have time to worry."