Isaiah Cottrell is the next big thing in Vegas hoops

It was business as usual for the Vegas Elite 2020 team Saturday in the Las Vegas Fab 48 Tournament.

Vegas Elite, in the running to win the mythical 15 and under AAU national title after being ranked No. 1 for most of the year, picked up two more wins at Palo Verde High School, including an impressive come-from-behind 68-65 overtime victory over a talented Meanstreets squad from Deerfield, Ill.

And athletic 6-foot-9 forward Isaiah Cottrell, who had a game-high 19 points in the hard-fought win over Meanstreets after scoring 12 points and blocking a handful of shots in a 73-61 win over Sacramento Magic a few hours earlier, picked up three more scholarship offers, including a pair from Pac-12 schools, Arizona and USC.

Nebraska also offered the Bishop Gorman sophomore-to-be to give Cottrell a dozen college scholarship offers with plenty more no doubt to come. UNLV was the first school to offer Cottrell followed by Washington, LSU, Fresno State, St. John’s, UC Santa Barbara, Oklahoma State, Pacific and New Mexico.

Vegas Elite Hoops, based out of the Bill and Lillie Heinrich YMCA across the street from the Meadows Mall, has the distinction of having had a big man selected in back-to-back NBA Drafts, Gonzaga’s Zach Collins (No. 10 2017) and former UNLV star Stephen Zimmerman (No. 41 2016). And it’s not far-fetched to think Cottrell could join that group one day.

“He’s way ahead of Zach Collins and Chase Jeter (redshirting at Arizona after two years at Duke) as a freshman,” Vegas Elite coach Rich Thornton, who also helped coach both players at Bishop Gorman, said. “Chase was 6-5 and Zach was 6-6 as freshmen. Neither could dunk as freshmen. Isaiah runs and jumps better than both of them at that stage and at 6-9 he’s a whole lot bigger.”

Zimmerman was regarded by many as the top eighth-grader in the nation before heading to Gorman.

“He was really skilled so he was better than Isaiah at this stage,” Thornton said. “But Isaiah is very coachable. He’s gotten so much better in just the last two months.”

Cottrell began the spring on the Las Vegas Prospects but switched to Vegas Elite, which also features Bishop Gorman teammates Noah Taitz and Braden Lamar, after the Prospects were drubbed by 50 points by Vegas Elite in an Easter Tournament.

“I really like Anthony Davis and I really like Tim Duncan because he’s so fundamentally sound,” Cottrell said when asked which players he tries to pattern his game after.

Vegas Elite 2020 needs to win three games Sunday to win a very strong Fab 48 Tournament beginning with a 9:10 a.m. contest against a highly ranked Wisconsin Playground Warriors squad at Desert Oasis High School. The semifinal is slated for 12:40 at Bishop Gorman with the championship game also at Gorman at 5:20 p.m.

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