Sunday, May 16, 2010

Relationships, Not Facilities, Top Zeller's Priority List

Remember all the talk you hear from school officials across the country about the importance of upgraded facilities in recruiting, that in this X-box 360 era you’d better WOW recruits if you want to land ‘em because if you’re don’t, you can bet the house your competitors will.

Guess what? Turns out facilities aren’t quite as big a deal after all.

Consider, for your examination, one Cody Zeller, a 6-10, 205-pound high school forward from Washington, Ind., being recruited by more major college coaches than Tiger Woods had, er, acquaintances. Zeller said he won’t pick a school just because of the facilities; that it is, in fact, well down his list of priorities.

“It’s not one of the top things,” he said, “but it’s nice to have a practice area. You can always get in there if something is going on in the main gym.”

It’s important to note that Zeller is more seasoned in the art of recruiting than most. He saw it first hand with older brothers Luke and Tyler, who wound up at Notre Dame and North Carolina. He understands that while bells and whistles are nice, they guarantee nothing. Success, whether on the court on in the classroom, still comes down to effort and desire.

Oh, yes. Liking who you’re with.

So when it comes time for Zeller to make a college choice (Indiana, Purdue, Butler, Notre Dame, Florida, Iowa, Texas, Wake Forest and Virginia Tech are the leading candidates), what will be the main selling points?

“Players and coaches are the main thing,” he said. “That’s who you’re going to be around the most. The education, of course. Facilities are important. It’s a long process. There are a lot of things to look at.”

Indiana, like so many colleges these days, spent millions of dollars building Cook Hall (photo courtesy of IU athletics), the new state-of-the-art practice facility that got plenty of use during this weekend’s adidas May Classic. Zeller visited the place and was impressed.

While Zeller couldn’t talk with coach Tom Crean during the Bloomington tournament, it wasn’t allowed per NCAA rules, he has spoken with him and understands Crean’s drive to restore the program’s glory after two years of misery in the wake of former coach Kelvin Sampson’s NCAA transgressions.

“Coach Crean will get it turned around,” Zeller said. “He tells me I can be a part of it. I think he’s already started the rebuilding process with the guys he’s brought in and the guys he’s recruiting.”

Those guys were everywhere you looked this weekend. They ranged from 2011 commit Austin Etherington to prospects such as Gary Harris, Branden Dawson, Yogi Ferrell, Ron Patterson, D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera, Hanner Perea, Peter Jurkin and, well, we’re too exhausted to type in any more names.

One name you won’t see connected with Indiana anymore is former Warren Central standout Walter Offutt. He decided to take a scholarship to play at Ohio rather than walk-on at IU. The transfer from Ohio State and Wright State was ineligible for scholarship aid from the Hoosiers because of Big Ten transfer rules.

The money was a factor, but Offutt also told the Bloomington Herald-Times’ Dustin Dopirak that he chose Ohio because of his relationship with coach John Groce. Groce recruited Offutt to Ohio State when he was a Buckeyes assistant coach.

Relationships, in the end, are the No. 1 reason recruits chose a college.


  1. Post would have been just fine with a swipe at Tiger Woods. Cheap, sophomoric and just plain lazy.

  2. State of the art facilities, tradition, great coaches, great shooters and slasher, all we need now are some big guys that can score, rebound and block shots. Zeller would be a very big step to full recovery!