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September 16, 2013When Kevin Zabo first began to get recruited by colleges all over the country, his father Ndavo Zeph (who is from Gatineau, Quebec) originally wanted to keep his son as close to home as possible.
"It's tough for parents like us to have our son go so far away," he said. "One of our criteria when we started the process was to have Kevin stay closer to home. But we knew that if Kevin felt comfortable we would be happy to go support him."
In terms of proximity, San Diego is about as far as you could get from Gatineau while still being in the United States.
But when San Diego State started to recruit Zabo, the coaching staff made sure the entire family knew how much they wanted the Wolfeboro (NH) Brewster Academy point guard, and that he would have an opportunity to come in and contribute as a freshman if he worked hard and earned it. Zabo rewarded the Aztecs with a commitment five weeks before he even came to San Diego to check out the school.
"They made it clear to us since the beginning that Kevin was a priority and what they needed at this stage was a point guard because Xavier Thames will be graduating next year," Zeph Zabo said. "(Thames) will be playing more than 35 minutes (per game) this year, but next year there will be a need. There's a point guard (D'Erryl Williams) that came in, but Kevin has a good chance as well to earn some minutes. He cannot take anything for granted and he has to work as hard as everybody else to earn any minutes the coach decides to give him."
Zabo -- who plans to major in business -- was accompanied by both of his parents on his official visit to Montezuma Mesa this past weekend, and they were all struck by the family atmosphere around the basketball program at San Diego State.
Zeph Zabo got all of his questions about academics and SDSU's support system for student athletes answered on the visit, and after the weekend was through he came away convinced that San Diego State was the perfect future home for his son.
"We really enjoyed it," he said. "It was just amazing. Coach Fisher has put together not just a coaching staff and team, it's more than that. It's like a family. They made us feel like part of that family. They showed how much they wanted and needed Kevin and that they would take care of him."
During the visit the coaching staff sat down with Zabo and described what they will need from him and the role he would play at SDSU.
"The coaches are very excited about how I'm going to fit into their system," Zabo said. "I can do a lot of things, I'm a good point guard that will run the team and help the team as much as I can. With X (Xavier Thames) leaving they're going to need a lot of minutes at the point spot with D'Erryl and I feel like I have a great opportunity to come in right away and contribute as a point guard. That's what they really need, is a point guard that can create plays. We've got a lot of scorers and a lot of forwards, so that's what we talked about the most."
His father was also wowed by the coaching staff's history.
"We went into Coach Fisher's office and it was impressive seeing all those NBA players he helped to get there, from Chris Webber to Jalen Rose to Kawhi (Leonard) and now Jamaal (Franklin)," Zeph Zabo said. "He's a genius, he's a legendary coach and Hall of Famer."
Throughout the weekend Zabo was able to meet and bond with all the members of the team, especially Xavier Thames and his player hosts Dakarai Allen and D'Erryl Williams.
"The whole team is very down to earth and nobody really has an attitude," Zabo said. "I got to play with them a little bit too so I know what they're going to look like this year and everything."
Zabo will sign his Letter of Intent during the early signing period in November, and has a plan of what he needs to improve on before he joins the Aztecs a year from now.
"I realize the game is a lot faster and players are a lot stronger in college," he said. "That's one thing that I'm trying to focus on, is my athleticism. I have a pretty strong upper body, but it's really my lower body and explosiveness that I'm working on a lot. Also just my point guard skills and making my jump shot more consistent to shoot at the highest percentage possible, everything that will help the team get better."