Pretend Indiana’s football debacle at Wisconsin never happened. Instead, concentrate on what’s really important as we turn toward the end of November:
The IU basketball team landed Cody Zeller.
Say it three times, stay away from the Big Ten Network and ESPN’s Sportscenter for the next 24 hours or so, then replay the video of Zeller saying, “I choose Indiana” you probably have recorded on your computer.
Keep that in mind, then focus on what it could mean.
Yeah, the hope is a bunch of championships, and that’s not just fan wishful thinking. Zeller has it, too.
“The goal is to win a national championship,” he said. “I think we can make strides toward that.”
A lot of development is needed before that happens, starting with the current Hoosiers. But the 6-10 Washington forward will have a huge role in any kind of future championship run.
How huge? Here is what Zeller said coach Tom Crean told him in the recruiting process.
“He said the offense could be run through me. I don’t know if that’s my freshman year or sophomore year or whenever. He said I could make a big difference. I’m looking forward to working with him.”
“Work” is the key word here. Zeller will have to earn his spot (Crean is really big on competition), and all indications are he’s highly motivated to put in the necessary work to reach his full potential.
“I have to get stronger,” he said. “I have to make all the moves faster and better. It’s a big step going from high school to college.”
A lot of coaches could develop him, but Zeller said Crean is the best fit for him.
“He seems to be one of the best at Xs and Os. He has great energy. I’ll enjoy playing for him.”
Zeller captured the state’s imagination while he debated the merits of Indiana, Butler and North Carolina. His every word and action was scrutinized.
“There was a lot of pressure, but I tried not to pay attention to it. I stayed focused on making the right decision. I’m glad it’s over. The high school season will start soon. Now I can focus on winning another state championship.”
Zeller was a freshman reserve on Washington’s 2008 Class 3A state title team. He was a key contributor on last spring’s championship squad. He’s set to lead the Hatchets to another title this season.
Sure, there’s pressure in that, but that’s part of athletics and life. And the expectations could go off the chart next season when Zeller arrives at Indiana. The key is for him to find the right perspective. In fact, he already has it.
“I try not to pay much attention. We’ll see what happens when I get there.”
Crean is rebuilding Indiana from the wreckage of the Kelvin Sampson disaster. The Hoosiers won six games his first season, 10 his second. They are poised for a winning record and a postseason tourney this season before really taking off next year.
That, at least, is the plan.
“I’m looking forward to it,” Zeller said. “Growing up in Indiana, I always wanted to see them do well. Now I’ll have a chance to have a part in helping make them good. I can have a big part even my freshman year.”
Keep that in mind. Leave the football mess for another time.