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June 27, 2013

Draft night upon Oladipo, Zeller

Tonight at 7:30 p.m. ET the NBA Draft kicks off from Madison Square Garden in New York City. It's going to be a special one for Hoosier fans as Victor Oladipo and Cody Zeller are both projected to go in the lottery part of the draft (first 14 picks).

"It's what you've been dreaming about all your life and now it's 24 hours away and you're really anxious," said Oladipo yesterday. "Definitely (have) butterflies but hard work definitely does pay off."

"Crazy that months, even years of research comes down to five minutes or one night," said Zeller.

You have to go back to the draft after Indiana's perfect season of 1976 to find two Hoosiers picked as early as Oladipo and Zeller are projected to go tonight. That year Scott May went No. 2 overall to Chicago, Quinn Buckner went No. 7 to Milwaukee and Bobby Wilkerson went No. 11 to Seattle.

"Says a lot about the program," said Zeller. "Coach (Tom) Crean developed both of us. Says a lot about recruiting later on. (Indiana) will continue to grow as a program and get top recruits because this (high NBA picks) is going to be a continuing trend."

Oladipo has been talked about as the potential number one overall pick to Cleveland, although the more recent speculation is the Cavaliers will go with a big man, specifically Kentucky's Nerlens Noel or Maryland's Alex Len.

Orlando has the number two overall selection, and the Magic media guys were all over the 6-foot-5 guard yesterday as Oladipo's name remains strongly in play for that choice.

"I could help them rebuild," said Oladipo to one Orlando reporter. "At Indiana we rebuilt from scratch. I could help impact winning on both ends of the court."

His hometown Wizards have pick No. 3 but with Bradley Beal coming off a sterling rookie season at the two guard spot, playing near home seems unlikely. Charlotte has the No. 4 overall pick followed by Phoenix. That No. 5 pick by the Suns is the most popular mock draft selection for the Hoosier All-American.

But you never know what may happen on draft night. There are rumors that Minnesota is working to trade up to grab Oladipo or Ben McLemore. The Timberwolves have the No. 9 and No. 26 picks and reportedly willing to ship forward Derrick Williams, the second overall pick just two years ago.

"I think a lot of people might be shocked by some things," said Oladipo. "We'll see. There's no telling what happens, that's what it's the NBA draft. You don't know if they'll be trades. You might be drafted in one city and five minutes be going to another one. That's the beauty of it."

Zeller has been mentioned as early as No. 2 and there's some recent buzz about the Bobcats liking him at No. 4. The most popular mock draft choice, however, for the Indiana big man has been Philadelphia at No. 11.

The 76ers need frontcourt help and yesterday the Philly media was all over the 7-footer in the interview sessions.

"It's high (Philadelphia interest), but I don't know if I'll be around at No. 11, so we'll see," said Zeller.

In other words, he's pretty hopeful of landing among the top 10 picks. Sacramento at No. 7 could use some frontcourt help for but the Kings also may grab a point guard such as Trey Burke, Michael Carter-Williams or C.J. McCollum. Teams picking later that need help inside could also trade up into top 10. The southern Indiana native added intrigue with some eye popping vertical and speed numbers at the NBA Draft Combine in Chicago and has reportedly impressed in individual workouts.

"These workouts have gone very well, so hopefully I won't be sitting there too long," said Zeller. "It's a crazy process. You don't know what's going to happen. I'm just excited to find out where I'm going to be playing and what city I'm going to be living in."

His shooting abilities have been on display in those workouts. That's important as he's likely slated to move to the four spot in the NBA.

"I've always been able to shoot throughout high school and AAU, so I didn't have to make any major changes," said Zeller. "I just wanted to be all to show them I could shoot it well or be able to to that at the next level."

He's confident enough in that skill that he's picked one of the top shooting big men in the league to look emulate going forward.

"I've drawn a lot of comparisons to LaMarcus Aldridge," said Zeller. Just how he plays in the mid-post. He's an underrated passer. I'm obviously not to that point yet but hopefully things in that direction."

As the reigning Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year, Oladipo gets compared often to Tony Allen of the Memphis Grizzlies. The 6-foot-4 Allen was on this year's NBA All-Defensive First Team.

"Actually his agent is my agent, we watch a lot of Tony Allen," said Oladipo. "He's a great defender, works so hard on defense. I definitely try to model him, no question."

While his draft status has skyrocketed, Oladipo is trying to remain grounded as we countdown to the ESPN draft broadcast, which begins tonight at 7 p.m. ET.

"It's pretty cool that it's rising but at the same time, this is just the beginning," said Oladipo. "Getting drafted is just where it starts. Way more things from there that you have to accomplish."

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