Friday, October 29, 2010

Is Zeller REALLY That Good? Expert Says Yes

Fans booed a declared pumpkin race tie. Yeah, it was a tough Assembly Hall crowd when it didn’t involve the Indiana Hoosiers and a certain prime time basketball recruit, but not for the reason you might think.

Fans are ready for a basketball winner, both for this season and for future ones. Nearly 8,000 people showed up for Night of the Living Red and it just wasn’t for the kid-friendly activities.

Not when Cody Zeller was there to woo.

So they chanted this Washington forward’s name and showed him love. They helped bring energy to a Halloween-themed spectacle.

Was it enough to convince the 6-10 standout to be a Hoosier?

We’re about to find out.

Butler and North Carolina are also in the mix. Zeller has already visited those schools. He’ll wrap up his IU visit this weekend, and then …

We’re about to find out

At Indiana, Zeller would be a superstar, a native son hyped to lead the Hoosiers to a Final Four Promised Land. Sure there would be pressure, but there’s pressure at every big-time program. Heck, there’s pressure just keeping a job to pay bills.

At North Carolina he’d be just another good player. At Butler, well, that, too, is an intriguing option.

Anyway, IU coach Tom Crean brought out all the big guns Friday night. NBA star Dwayne Wade, who played for Crean at Marquette, had a video message displayed on Assembly Hall’s massive scoreboard touting Crean as a coach. So did former Big Ten MVP Calbert Cheaney, who wore a Golden State shirt while delivering it.

The message was loud and clear -- Indiana in general and Crean in particular develops NBA stars

Just in case Zeller missed all the championship implications, Crean introduced a trio of former Hoosier standouts -- Jim Crews, Tom Abernathy and John Laskowski.

All this is fine, but is Zeller worth the trouble? The short answer is yes. The longer answer comes courtesy of Bob Gibbons, the publisher of All-Star Sports and one of the pioneers of basketball recruiting. He’s rated recruits for 30 years. Every year he and his staff go coast to coast evaluating more than 5,000 players. He evaluated Zeller’s older brothers -- Luke, who went to Notre Dame, and Tyler, who is at North Carolina.

Gibbons got a long look at the youngest Zeller when the 6-10 forward played at Gibbons’ spring Tournament of Champions. If ever there was an expert who could give a thorough evaluation of Zeller’s potential, Gibbons is the guy.

“He’s a highly skilled big man,” Gibbons said. “He has the size. All the Zellers run the floor very well for their size. He continues in that tradition.

“He can shoot from the outside. He’s an excellent passer. He has a high basketball IQ. He’s one of the most fundamentally skilled big men in the nation. He’s very versatile and multi-talented. He can play either forward position, and probably center. His probable best position in college is the 4 or power forward.”

Gibbons rates Zeller as the No. 16 player in the nation, and might soon rate him higher, “because of his skill set.”

Gibbons had more to say about Zeller. We’ll detail that in our next blog.

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