Ta’Quan Zimmerman didn’t have an easy life, so he didn’t expect his quest for a professional basketball career to be easy either. But he couldn’t anticipate getting injured in the pre season practice during his first year at Long Island University.
“In pre season we’re in practice and I just do a regular jab step move, and I felt my knee buckle and I didn’t think nothing of it so I continued playing through the rest of practice,” – Ta’Quan Zimmerman
But the next morning he could barely stand. “I thought I was dreaming so I went back into my bed, and was like. ‘let me try this over again’. So I went to get up again, and I just fall again, my knee was in so much pain,” he recalled.
He reported the issue to his coach and trainer and they diagnosed it as an MCL sprain. But two weeks later he was still in pain, and so he went to do an MRI. The results showed he had a severe meniscus tear that would need surgery, so he did not get to play that season.
While he was doing rehab, and not being able to play, he began losing interest in the school. Besides, he said his coaches had already begun recruiting other guards to be on the safe side.
But he appreciated then, that his early childhood gave him the gift of perseverance, the aptitude to make the best out of every situation, and do what he had the power to do.
So he took a risk in complete faith, and left Long Island University to enroll in a junior college and open up himself again for recruitment.
He ended going to Iowa in 2011, to the Southeastern Community College, which was one of the best division one junior colleges.
But after some members of the basketball team were caught on camera stealing basketball gear and were suspended, the basketball season ended for Zimmerman.
Although he wasn’t among the culprits and was not suspended, he chose not to return to school. He explained he was already so far away from home, and would not be playing basketball, so it didn’t make any sense for him to stay.
So he returned home and finished the school year at the Naugatuck Valley Community College, where he did a few courses in sociology and criminal studies.
The following year he enrolled in the Monroe Community College, in New York and played there for a year. During the 2012/2013 season, the team finished fifth in the country.
He was then recruited by the University of Niagara, a division one school, in New York, but was not able to take the full scholarship offer.
“Usually the rule is if you go to junior college, you had to graduate with your associate’s degree, to transfer into a division one institution, this is the NCAA rule. And I got a call saying that I’m not eligible. I thought all I had to do was graduate but they were saying no, you also had to have a certain amount of credits towards your degree. I was missing about six credits,” he said.
Zimmerman appealed the NCAA’s decision. He explained that he was missing a few credits because he did not finish school in Iowa. A month before the school reopened, he received the NCAA’s ruling, and his appeal was denied.
He decided then to look outside of America for university, and received a scholarship to the Thompson Rivers University in Kamloops, British Columbia, Canada.
“I ended up going there, and things were good. I played well, I led the team to the playoffs for the first time. I was averaging 20 points a game, and captain. I was top ten in the country for scoring,” – Ta’Quan Zimmerman
Drafted in the NBA
His performance on the court in university started attracting agents, who were encouraging him to go pro.
“I’d post some of my stuff on social media, and some agents were following me, looking at me that I didn’t even know. And they reached out to me, and they were like, some scouts reached out to me, and you should think about going pro,” he said.
Zimmerman was excited that his dream of becoming a professional basketball player was becoming a reality.
“I was like that’s my next dream, that my next goal. Hell yea I wanna be a professional basketball player,” – Ta’Quann Zimmerman
After consulting with his brothers, coaches, and advisors, he made the decision to go pro.
He entered the NBA draft in 2014, the same year basketball superstar, Andrew Wiggins was drafted.
“My thought process for entering the draft wasn’t to get drafted. I mean if I was drafted that would be great, but my thought process was exposure, let them see my name, when they see my name they’re gonna click on my profile and see what a great shooter I was.
A dream come true
“Sure enough, after my name was in the draft, my coach started receiving calls from NBA teams, the San Anotonio Spurs, the Golden State Warriors. Now I’m like, this was like my dream was about to come through, it was crazy,” he said.
Zimmerman said he did his pre draft training with the NBA’s most sought after trainer, Rob McClanaghan. This boosted his confidence, and gave him massive exposure. He worked out for the Detroit Pistons.
“It was good, just the experience was, wow,” he said.
In the end, he didn’t get drafted, but got signed by the Utah Jazz G-League team, when he was 21 years old.
Zimmerman was finally a professional basketball player.
“After all the stuff that went on, and all I said was just stay true to yourself. During that time there were all the critics, all the people hating, telling you you can’t make it, but I tried to stay true to myself because I knew how hard I could work and I believed in myself, and that that stuff happened for a reason. God didn’t give us the same vision I always used to just lean on him, and stay true to myself,” – Ta’Quan Zimmerman
Pride of his family and community
He was also aware of the joy that the realization of his dreams brought to his family and community.
“They know and have seen the transformation, the growth from when I was a fat kid getting cut, growing up poor, me having one pair of shoes for almost the whole year. There were times when I had to sleep on the kitchen floor next to the stove because we didn’t have any heat.
He played for the Utah Jazz for two years before moving on to play in the National Basketball League in Canada for the Halifax Hurricanes.
He left the Halifax to play for a year in Mongolia before returning to the Halifax Hurricanes.
“I’ve found a home there, Canada is nice, they embraced me from the moment I got off the plane. I like it there, I really like out here,” – Ta’Quan Zimmerman.
Zimmerman is currently the all time leader in the three pointers made in the franchise, and second all time leader in assist. In 2018, he won the prestigious sixth man of the year award.
For Zimmerman, his success as a professional basketball player would not be meaningful unless he shares with others how to attain it too. And that’s why he started the Ta’Quan Zimmerman Foundation.
Find out more about his foundation in part three of the series.