Saturday, October 30, 2010

Zeller Looms As Four-Year College Benefit

Nothing is guaranteed in the world of college basketball or cutting-edge blogging, but landing Cody Zeller could be a four-year benefit for Indiana.

Not many elite players stay four years anymore. The lure of a mega-bucks contract in the NBA is too strong, even for the likes of Butler and Gordon Hayward, who passed up his final two years of college to become a millionaire last summer.

Now Zeller is on the cusp of his big college decision. The 6-10 forward from Washington is a consensus top-20 player. He does not project as a one-and-done player, which is good news for whichever school lands him. If he stays four years in college, as Purdue’s JaJuan Johnson has done, who knows what he could accomplish.

Zeller is wrapping up his official visit to Indiana and then will decide if he wants to be a Hoosier, a Butler Bulldog or a North Carolina Tar Heel.

“One of the good things about the Zellers,” national recruiting analyst Bob Gibbons said, “is that they’ve been four-year players. Luke was at Notre Dame. Tyler will be at North Carolina. Cody fits the same mold.”

Indiana benefitted from Eric Gordon’s one year of college, although much of that was negated by former coach Kelvin Sampson’s NCAA-rules-violating ways. Gordon probably had the body and strength to handle NBA battles right out of high school. Cody Zeller, like his brothers, is slender and lacks the strength he’ll need to thrive at the highest professional level. A lot of time spent in a college weight training program will do wonders for him.

Indiana, in case you’re wondering, has a solid weight training program.

“He needs to get stronger overall, which he will in college,” Gibbons said. “Physical maturity will take care of itself.”

Zeller’s maturity showed itself over the summer in his overall game. He went from being a top-40 player to a top-20 one, with the chance to move even higher. That improvement got the attention of North Carolina coach Roy Williams, whose late push got the Tar Heels on Zeller’s finalist list.

“He made a quantum leap this summer,” Gibbons said. “He was on the same Indiana Elite team with Marshall Plumlee, who has committed to Duke. It was clear that although both are talented, Cody had a much higher skill set overall.”

Gibbons saw Zeller play in his Tournament of Champions last spring.

“He was a standout there.”

The key is to get Zeller to be a standout at IU. How likely is that?

“Each of the brothers has gone his separate way,” Gibbons said. “My gut feeling is that Cody will make his own mind up and do what’s best for him. I know his parents spent a lot of time getting acquainted with the Indiana program and the academics that would be available to him. They visited the business school.

“It will be interesting.”

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