Cody Zeller made it official yesterday in front of the media, players
and friends, but the big sophomore has known for some time that this
was going to be his last year at Indiana.
"After awhile you just kind of know," said Zeller in the late afternoon
press conference. "I kind of knew, barring injury or
something drastic that this might be my last year, so I was enjoying
every last minute of it. There was a sense of closure, playing my last
game at Assembly Hall, playing my last tournament. I definitely left
everything out there that I had. Put everything I had into each
practice and each game. I just kind of knew over time."
His Indiana teammates kind of knew as well.
"I think those guys kind of expected it," said Zeller. "The people that
have been helping me the most with my decision --- I had them try to
put themselves into my shoes with what they would do in my situation. A
lot of my teammates would just tell me to go."
And those shoes are set in the NBA lottery. That's the first 14
picks awarded to non-playoff teams, order determined in a drawing after the
regular season. While the NBA has instituted a rookie salary scale,
even those players at the bottom of the lottery will likely earn at
least $2 million per year until the opportunity for a much larger
second contract is available.
The well known mock drafts have Zeller going anywhere between pick No.
6 and No. 11 and Indiana coach Tom Crean indicated the more direct
feedback fron the NBA have his sophomore in pretty safe territory.
"There's nothing that has come back from the undergraduate advisor
committee or the general managers and scouting directors that have said
anything less than we would have expected, which is for him to be
somewhere in that lottery area."
While the same draft prognosis was there for Zeller after his freshman
year at Indiana, he mentioned how much closer he's come to earning his
degree and added --- "Victor (Oladipo), Christian (Watford),
Jordan (Hulls), and Derek (Elston) - were leaving. Obviously IU will
have a great year next season but the guys that I was closest to are
In regards to the former, he has a plan in place to get a degree from
the Kelley School of Business by the end of next summer.
"I'm only 35 credits shy of graduation, which will take me two summers
to complete," said Zeller. "The first summer will be 14 credits
completing ICORE for the Business School, which will leave me with 21.
The second summer I'll take 15 credits and then I'll finish the
remainder six credits online. Right now I plan on coming back and
Zeller is the only player in the nation this year honored as a regular
All-American and as an Academic All-American. That's why much of his
recent time wasn't being spent on researching the NBA decision.
"The past couple of weeks have been tough academically getting caught
up with the work I missed during the tournament," said Zeller. "The
past two weeks I have just been studying like crazy trying to get
He hopes his work ethic on and off the court will be one of his lasting
impacts to the program.
"The culture really changed. Vic (Oladipo) and Will (Sheehey) kind of
started it before I
got here," said Zeller. "That's what it takes to be successful. That
with the guys that are here, they'll pass it along to the freshmen and
it will continue for a long time."
While Oladipo is clearly a two guard, Zeller's professional role could
either be as a center or power forward. If it's the latter as many
suggest, it will be a bit of a new role and associate head coach Tim
Buckley is confident the big man can make the adjustment.
"There aren't a lot of weaknesses in his game so you can put him in a
lot of situations on the floor," said Buckley. "I think that
flexibility is really going to help him."
That flexibility will probably need to include a more aggressiveness in
taking jump shots on the perimeter. After showing a pretty reliable
jumper in high school and summer AAU player, Zeller was a bit reluctant
to pull the perimeter trigger in college.
"He probably didn't feel that was something we needed to do and he's a
guy that is always cognizant of getting good shots," said Buckley.
"Obviously he can
shoot the ball because of the way he shot free throws and we saw him do
it in practice. He can shoot the ball from three but it never really
presented itself when he was playing in the games. Because of his
ability to drive the ball, he played against a lot of guys that
couldn't necessarily keep him in front. So there were times where he
could beat people off the dribble instead of trying to settle for the
If Zeller had left a year ago, he would have made the move on his own.
This year he has a compatriot.
"It will be fun to go through the workouts with Vic, we're in the same
situation," said Zeller. "We've already been working out together and
it will be fun
to have someone in the same situation as me to compare notes with and
go from there."
The quiet, reserved sophomore with a deadpan humor is already joking
that his more outgoing teammate will make his suit selection for draft
day on June 27th in Madison Square Garden.
"I'll think I'll go with whatever Vic has, he'll be my wardrobe guy,"
Losing those two to the league along with seniors Jordan Hulls, Derek
Elston and Christian Watford will make for full rebuilding mode for
coach Tom Crean.
"I know what we're losing, I've got the stat sheets but I don't dwell
on that," said Crean. "I focus on how much better we're going to make
everyone else here, what we're going to do in recruiting and most
importantly being able to watch these guys go to their next
After back-to-back press conferences for NBA declarations, the coach is
hitting the road today to see if he can add another piece to next
year's team to help make up for those lost this week.
"We will not be here tomorrow, because I'm going recruiting," said