Imagine being ranked preseason No. 1 and six months later being a team that the following season might have trouble cracking the top-25 when the polls come out in November of 2013.
That’s where Indiana finds itself today after big man Cody Zeller announced his intention to skip his final two years of eligibility and head to the NBA.
Zeller’s decision comes one day after Victor Oladipo also said he would bypass his senior season at IU and make himself eligible for the June draft.
Zeller and Oladipo’s departure from Tom Crean’s program means the Hoosiers will lose four starters from their Big Ten championship team.
Unlike Oladipo’s stock which continually soared this season, Zeller’s seemed to dip, especially at the end of the season when he struggled mightily against Syracuse in the NCAA Tournament’s East Region semifinals. As a result, some thought Zeller may opt for another season of college basketball, but he still is widely considered a lottery pick by NBA player personnel experts, which ultimately was too hard to pass up.
“… I believe it is in my best interest to pursue my professional basketball career in the NBA next season,” said Zeller in a press release.
Zeller will hold a press conference this afternoon at IU.
Zeller ranked fourth in the Big Ten in scoring, averaging 16.5 points per game, second in rebounding (8.1) and fifth in field goal percentage (56.2)
NBA teams would love to have Zeller, a second-team All-American. He runs the floor exceptionally well for a player his size, has an unbelievable motor, a good shooting touch and decent range.
Zeller’s game, however, does need some polishing. At 240 pounds, he could stand to put on some more weight and definitely some more muscle in hopes of helping him finish around the basket with more effectiveness especially when he goes against physically imposing players. He needs to be more explosive around the basket. Zeller also needs to play like he’s a 7-footer all the time. Occasionally he’ll fall into the trap of putting the ball on the floor and playing smaller than he actually is.
Expect him to be a good pro. Zeller’s game will significantly get better practicing against talented big men on a daily basis and competing against them throughout the week.
Some IU fans may think Zeller needed another year of college basketball and didn’t make the right decision today. In reality though he made an excellent choice when you consider his draft stock, the risk of injury in returning and with the fact that his game just wouldn’t improve all that much by playing another season in the college ranks.
This is a player who is pretty much as ready as anyone is these days for the NBA and he’ll make one team very happy come June 27.
Doug Griffiths is a member of the Football Writers Association of America and the US Basketball Writers Association. Doug is a columnist/writer for RantSports. Follow him on Twitter @ISLgriffiths and Facebook.