Cody Zeller got confused. That’s it. For a second, with all the buzz about IU’s newest recruiting class, maybe Zeller thought he was the second coming of Yogi Ferrell, the Hoosiers’ point guard of the future who can get steals and drive the length of the floor for baskets.
But no, there was Zeller, all 6-11 and 230 pounds of him, getting a steal, driving the down the court and getting the two-handed dunk.
The Assembly Hall crowd roared and the Hoosiers, already pummeling out-gunned Stony Brook, sent for the second-half jugular.
“I’ve done that a couple of times in highs school,” Zeller says. “It got the crowd into it. It got us going. I was just trying to make a play.”
Yeah, it’s good to be a Hoosier these days, especially when you’re Zeller and, at least for one season-opening day, you meet lofty expectations.
Sure, it meant taking a second-half shot to the lower abdomen, a flagant foul that got the Seawolves’ Danny Carter ejected once referees viewed the TV monitor and saw what he had down. They didn’t see it live, but they absolutely saw it when coach Tom Crean asked them to check the monitor.
Zeller downplayed it, saying he’d have to see it on film to really comment on it, but adding that it gave IU an advantage because Stony Brook lost a valuable inside player.
“They didn’t have as many big guys in there,” he said. “No. 23 (Dallis Joyner) was getting worn down. They had to bring in a couple guys we hadn’t seen on tape. It was a big help to the team.”
Zeller was a bigger help, especially in the second half, when he had 12 points and eight rebounds. That gave him a double-double of 16 points and 10 rebounds, quite a college debut, although it didn’t surprise his teammates.
“It was outstanding, remarkable,” senior guard Verdell Jones said. “It’s rare to see a freshman do what he did today. They (Stony Brook) came right at him and instead of backing down, he came right back at them. That’s huge. Teams are going to come at him. If he keeps his head and keeps attacking them right back, it will be huge for us.”
The 6-11 Zeller arrived with a ton of expectations and hype. Yes, this was only one game and the opponent wasn’t, say, Ohio State, which comes to Assembly Hall on New Year’s Eve.
But it gave a public impression to what basically now has been private potential.
“What he did today was just the beginning,” forward Derek Elston said. “In the first half he was drawing two (defenders) and I heard a fan say, get him the ball inside. That’s what we’ve been harping on -- getting him the ball.
“Once we get find him in the post and we get things going, he causes so much confusion for the defense. They don’t know how to guard him. That’s what we need. He can finish. He went coast to coast. That opens up so much for the kid. He’s going to help us tremendously.”
He already has.
Even now, with the glow from signing perhaps the nation’s best recruiting class still bright, the quest continues, the sales pitch remains as upbeat as ever.
Indiana is where you want to be again.
Take assistant coach Steve McClain. He arrived a year or so ago, which means he missed out on the Hoosiers’ early recruiting drama, but not the message that has to continue to be sent. McClain mentions sophomores Will Sheehey and Victor Oladipo, who have gone from last year’s reserve after-thoughts to two of the team’s best players.
That improvement, McClain said, is proof that how the Hoosiers develop players works. It should impact the five Class of 2012 newcomers and other future recruits.
“Those guys have seen the progress of Victor and Will,” McClain said. “They’ve seen what the young guys in our program have done in nine months. They know that’s the development they’ll get.”
And now, so do you.
For those of you into Cream ‘n Crimson justice, Gary Harris’ Hamilton Southeastern football team got beat by Fort Wayne Snider in Class 5A regional action Friday night. His football career is over.
Yes, that’s the same Harris who committed to Michigan State a few days earlier.