Let’s introduce Cody Zeller, Indiana basketball recruiter. He’s the guy who can help the Hoosiers land more premier in-state players. How? With a word, a suggestion, even a smile.
Ah, yes, the power of teenage basketball celebrity.
Zeller now ranks as one of the most recognizable people in the state, certainly in basketball circles. He shows that IU can land top in-state players; the message is that the school really is the premier destination program for elite players.
So will he recruit?
“I want to play with the best players I can,” he says.
The primary target is Indianapolis Park Tudor’s Yogi Ferrell. The one thing the Hoosiers will need is a true point guard and Ferrell fits the role perfectly. Rivals.com ranks him as the nation’s No. 17 player in the Class of 2012, the No. 2 point guard. He’s fast, handles the ball well, and makes good passes and decisions. He’ll have to be able to guard at the major college level, an adjustment for every freshman. The sooner he does that, the sooner he would make a real impact.
The first step is getting Ferrell to commit to the Hoosiers. Coach Tom Crean is working on that. So are IU students, who chanted Ferrell’s name several times to acknowledge his appearance at Friday night’s season-opening win over Florida Gulf Coast (he sat right behind the IU bench). So is Zeller. He mentioned Ferrell by name during his Thursday press conference.
“Hopefully Yogi and a couple of those other guys will follow in my footsteps.”
Those other guys include committed players Hanner Perea, Ron Patterson and Peter Jurkin from the Class of 2012.
Zeller’s decision to become a Hoosier has Ferrell and all the recruits pumped. He might not be a Messiah, but he offers championship hope, and given IU’s 23-year title drought, that’s a very big thing.
In recent years IU had lost its stature among the best in-state recruits. Ohio State, Duke and North Carolina were among the elite programs raiding the state. Meanwhile, Purdue’s Matt Painter has built a Big Ten power using primarily in-state players. Butler’s Final Four run last spring was fueled by in-state talent such as Gordon Hayward.
Landing Zeller was the kind of statement-making get that could lock down the state in Cream ‘n Crimson and impact the program for years, and Crean knows it.
“Cody validated the level of where Indiana is with everybody else out there,” Crean said. “I can’t thank him enough.”
Nothing lasts forever, especially in recruiting. In time Zeller’s name will lose impact. Somebody else will come up with mega-star potential and Crean will have to sign him or risk losing clout. It’s the nature of the business. That’s why Crean continues to have close contact with Indiana Elite, a Bloomington-based AAU travel team that has become a major player on the national tournament scene.
Zeller, Perea, Patterson, Jurkin, Ferrell and fellow IU 2011 signee Austin Etherington play for Indiana Elite. Current Hoosiers Jordan Hulls and Matt Roth played for Indiana Elite. IU video coordinator Drew Adams is a former Indiana Elite coach and is the son of Indiana Elite coach Mark Adams.
That’s eight players and one staff member from one travel program.
That’s a topic for another day.
For this day, perhaps for the foreseeable future, Indiana has become the big gun in Indiana high school recruiting.