In-State Recruit Watch: Cody Zeller

Cody Zeller might be the most important target Indiana has right now. The Hoosiers obviously need height desperately, and the 6-foot-10 Washington High School junior has that. He’s an in-state kid, the No. 35 recruit in the Class of 2011, and he’s got two brothers who have played major conference ball at North Carolina Notre Dame (Luke) and North Carolina (Tyler). His signing could mean a lot for IU not only because it would help the Hoosiers inside, but because it could really help Tom Crean’s recruiting rep.

So considering how important he is for IU, I probably could have picked a better opponent to watch him play against than Owen Valley.

To be fair, Roy Williams made the same decision I did. The North Carolina coach was in attendance looking to perhaps swipe a second Zeller from IU’s backyard. According to the youngest Zeller, the Tar Heels haven’t offered yet, but Williams was still there in person, signing autographs and taking pictures with babies before he got a chance to talk to Washington coach Gene Miiller about Zeller.

Neither Williams nor I saw much that would determine how effective Zeller could be at college basketball’s highest level. He had a strong statistical showing, 20 points on 9-for-16 shooting and 11 rebounds, but he could have easily sat the entire game out and it would have made no difference.

Washington won 78-35 and believe it or not, it wasn’t even that close. Not to rip too hard into Owen Valley — they’re high school kids after all — but they simply weren’t on Washington’s level. The Hatchets’ full-court press overwhelmed the Patriots in a 17-0 first quarter. Washington created 29 turnovers and led 69-18 at one point.

It was tough to get a read on Zeller, therefore, because most of the time, the Hatchets didn’t even have to face a set defense. Owen Valley had a tough time getting the ball past the timeline against Washington’s guards, so the Hatchets often scored before Zeller even got to the paint. When Washington did slow it down, they often shot over a 3-2 zone defense, and when Zeller got the ball, he was mostly dealing with players at least 6 inches shorter than him. Owen Valley star Cody Vest, a 6-7 forward, missed much of the first quarter in foul trouble.

When Zeller did get a chance to show his stuff, I was impressed by his feel for the game. He has really good footwork, moves well with out the ball and has some slick post-moves. He threw down a few dunks, got an and-one and executed a smooth pivot move around two defenders for a left-handed layup. He passes well, and even though his shot looked a little flat on this night, he’s shown enough evidence that he’s capable.

For as much as he scores, though, he could score a lot more if he was a little better at imposing his will on defenders.

“I want him to get more aggressive offensively,” Washington coach Gene Miiller said. “I think he’s gotta look for his shot more, work harder to get himself in position to score, and just be more aggressive offensively is what we need out of him. It’s hard to say, you know, here’s a kid who’s averaging 20 points and 11 rebounds a ball game and I’m asking him to be more aggressive. But I think for us to be as good as we’re capable of being and for him to be where he needs to be, I think that’s what we gotta have out of him. He’s just gotta be more aggressive offensively away from the ball, put him in positions and be more aggressive when he catches the ball.”

One thing that could help him do that is the added strength he has now. After coming into high school as a 155-pound waif, he’s up to 205 now. That doesn’t exactly make him a bruiser, but he’s has some definition and he’s been adding muscle.

And what’s helping him do that? Gym class.

“I’m in and advanced P.E. class lifting every day,” he said. “That’s definitely one of the things I’m focusing on. I don’t know how much stronger I am, but quite a bit. I’m at 6-10, 205. There’s still a lot of room to work, but I’m getting better.”

As for the status of his recruiting, Williams’ presence certainly doesn’t bode well for everyone else on the list, especially if Zeller wants to follow his brothers. But he said Carolina hasn’t offered yet.

“They’re one of the schools that wait until the last minute,” he said. “I’m not going to decide until my senior year, so it’s not a big deal.”

And Zeller didn’t offer any insight until who he might commit to. Other than IU, he has known offers from Florida, Purdue, Notre Dame, Ohio State, Iowa and Butler. There are apparently more getting involved, and he’s willing to listen.

“Everyone’s still in the mix right now,” he said. “I’m not too worried about it right now.”

Zeller said he plans on taking all five of his official visits in his senior year and make a decision then. Until that point.

“Anyone who wants to call,” he said. “There’s still some getting in the mix. Virginia Tech, Stanford within the last month or so. They’re still coming in slowly.”

And IU is still very much involved.

“They’re busy with their season, but they’re also making time for me,” he said. “So that means a lot.”

AUDIO: Cody Zeller

AUDIO: Washington coach Gene Miiller

17 comments

  1. This would be a huge victory for TC and the hoosiers if we could land BIG Z! This would show the country we can compete for the top recruits! Zeller, it would be a great honor to have you at IU!

  2. “he’s got two brothers who have played major conference ball at North Carolina.”

    Luke Zeller played at Notre Dame, not North Carolina. Tyler is at North Carolina though.

  3. He is a must get. A little surprised it wasn’t caught that Luke Zeller went to ND and not NC though.
    I think he will end up being the best of the 3.

  4. It would be great if Cody wore the Cream and Crimson, but more importantly – can we get Owen Valley on next year’s schedule?

  5. Good ol’ Dan Dakich put Tom in his place yesterday on his radio show. I would recommend everyone listen to the podcast. He tells it like it is.

  6. DD is no longer coaching. He is in the entertainment business and the entertainment media likes to waste air.

  7. Have you guys actually found a recap of what Dakich said? I’m on the 1070 web page now and don’t see a podcast that appears to deal specifically with IU.

    Can anybody shed some light on the discussion? Thanks.

  8. He said something to the effect of he understands using the clapping, getting the bench into the game, supportive rah-rah stuff as team-building, but said it’s all fake because when things go badly it disappears. I generally agree with Dakich, but not sure how much I buy that. I mean when we’re down 20, I don’t know how much clapping Brett Finkelmeier can do.

    He’s also been criticizing our lack of movement on offense, too much dribbling, dribble-driving, etc. I think he’s pretty much correct on that one.

    There have been other criticisms too, lack of toughness, making same mistakes, etc., but the above was mainly what he was talking about yesterday, and the dribbling has been a constant point for him lately.

    I think he’s pretty fair and I like him. That said, it’s probably understandable for him to be harsh on IU at times to make it clear that he’s not just an IU fan on the radio to his listeners. I don’t think it was so harsh that it’s really much news though, for the most part he’s just tellin it like it is.

  9. Dakich came in to captain the Titanic as it was going down, pretty much knowing he was going to go down with the ship. We all know the problems we were having and he took the steps that we would expect an Indiana coach to take, interim or not. He hasn’t been bitter and his observations and critiques about the team have been fair. Crean comes on his show and they have good discussions from which I detect no animus.

  10. Best part was when caller said now I know Crean is doing a good job but… and Dakich says How is he doing a good job?
    He believes Mcloud is a terrible assistant coach and a huge waste and he is correct.

  11. Chris, Dak basically said, in a non-judgemental way, that it was fair of IU fans to question why there has been a regression in the program during this mid-season. I listened to the whole thing and didn’t think he was being critical of Crean, just saying that everyone – coaches and players – needed to be held accountable. He challenged Crean critics to say what Coach has done wrong, and Crean supporters to say what he’s done right. Fair enough.

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