That’s A Wrap: Cody Zeller

Welcome to “That’s A Wrap,” our player-by-player recap of the 2011-2012 Indiana Hoosiers. Today: Cody Zeller.

Final stats (36 games): 15.6 ppg, 6.6 rpg, 1.2 apg, 1.2 bpg, 1.4 spg, 62.3 FG%, 75.5% FT in 28.5 minutes per game.

It’s July of 2011 and Tom Crean says this of Cody Zeller: “He’s the most mentally focused kid I’ve ever recruited … I see a young man that has mental toughness that is not normal.”

It’s high praise for a kid that hasn’t played a minute of Hoosier basketball, a kid already being labeled the symbol of Indiana’s rebirth. But as we’d come to find time and again during Zeller’s brilliant freshman campaign, Crean was right: Zeller’s not normal. His calm on the court is the Middle Way — never too high, never too low, never thinking of the past or the future or playing into the emotion of the moment, just always aware of himself and his game and his center.

Early in the season, it was non-conference opponents fouling Zeller hard, and he remained unmoved as these lesser talents sought to rattle him. By Big Ten season (Feb. 9, home win), Meyers Leonard, Illinois’ immature but talented big man who was in the midst of a dominant first half, was shoving Zeller to the hardwood near center court. Zeller did not immediately retaliate, complain to the refs or show much, if any, emotion. He remained patient.

And so after half, Zeller gained the upper hand and made a fool of Leonard: Illinois’ center picked up fouls based purely off emotion when his team needed him on the court. And Zeller found retaliation from the first half cheap shot in his own way, a controlled and in rhythm score and foul drawn on Leonard that included a bit of an elbow to his mouth. It was him saying I’ll play my game, and play it better.

But Zeller’s talents are so much more than his transcendent mental approach. His skillset for a 7-footer, one honed by some tough love from father Steve and brothers Luke and Tyler, is vast, varied and fundamentally sound. Great footwork, positioning and moves in the post? Check. Enough speed to outrun an entire defense and dunk on the break? Check. Quick hands, ones that picked up nearly a steal and a half a game and good for second on the team to Victor Oladipo in steal percentage? Check. A defensive game that was low on fouls and high on lateral quickness and blocks? Check.

The Washington native faced consensus No. 1 pick Anthony Davis twice, and he gave Davis about the most he’d have to handle in Kentucky’s championship season. Outside of 3-point sharpshooters Matt Roth (79.2%) and Jordan Hulls (63.0%), he had the highest eFG% on the team (62.3), which was good for 22nd in the country. His TS% (true shooting, which takes free throws into account as well) of 66.5% was ninth best in the nation. His offensive rating of 126.8 ranked him 14th. He was named the Big Ten Freshman of the Year. He has a sense of humor and faith in God.

Could Zeller be stronger? Sure. Could he have rebounded better at times? Probably. But these are minor quibbles for a player that meant so much to this program and was everything he was advertised as and more.

Bottom line: Zeller had a huge hand in bringing Indiana back to national prominence this season. He was an efficient offensive player who scored in double figure in 32 out of his 36 games and scored 20 or more on seven different occasions. He’s a consensus lottery pick and would likely fall in the top 10, if not top 5, in June’s NBA draft.

But he will return to Bloomington and play for the Hoosiers next season despite this fact, despite guaranteed money in the NBA, despite the allure of the one-and-done storyline after Kentucky’s championship season.

Because this is Cody Zeller: not normal.

Previously: Christian WatfordDerek Elston, Jordan Hulls, Matt Roth, Tom Pritchard, Verdell Jones, Victor Oladipo, Will Sheehey

  • Steve

    It is an absolute pleasure to watch this young man play basketball. We are blessed to have him wearing the cream and crimson!!!

  • Lucas Vaal

    It’s time to bring the pain this coming year!

  • Lucas Vaal

    It’s time to bring the pain this coming year!

  • BKLock

    Awesome talent…Thank you Z-man for being a Hoosier!

  • NervousWreck

    This article nails it.  Zeller never disappoints and does things the right way. I thank God he’s a Hoosier.  I don’t care what the media says, I don’t see him leaving IU without a degree in hand.

  • MillaRed

    Unbelievably, I think he surpassed most of our expectations last season. Which were very high.

    I expect him to unleash his jumpshot  next season, along with added weight to defend and rebound better.

    Mom and dad are not hurting for cash. Big brother Tyler will be a millionaire. I’m sure he can give Cody a few bucks here and there when necessary. Cody is a 7 foot kid that loves cookies. I think he will enjoy college and wants a degree.

    Is this my favorite IU player of all-time? I’m thinking he is.

  • Derbus

    Many of us predicted Cody would be the hub of the wheel, all other Hoosiers beings spokes on the Indiana juggernaut wheel, and it manifested beautifully!!!  He makes the other players play on a higher level, just like Michael Jordan did.  He is a CATALYST facilitating epic play.  He will attain Hoops Nirvana as no other Hoosier has ever done before.  Cody Zeller and the rest of CTC’s players may go undefeated before Cody graduates.  Now, no pUKe team will accomplish that,  lmafo!

  • SCHoosier

    CZ deserves all the credit he has been given. That said..anyone who thinks Davis wasn’t the more dominant player..needs to think again. Cody certainly can get stronger..and  hopefully will be a better rebounder and defensive intimidator. Frankly…given that IU could not afford to have him on the bench..I didn’t think he challenged much defensively. With more depth..maybe he can. Don’t think he’ll ever be a Davis-type defensive player and shot blocker..but he can get much better. Offensively..he needs to develop better moves as pointed out by one rival scourt during the season. Facing the basket..hitting that 15 footer would be a start..also continuing to drive on the guy guarding him…and a good jump hook with either hand. Sure..he could have gone pro–but would have been the last guy on the roster in terms of stregth and offensive skill. He’s making the right decision and certainly has the B-ball IQ/work ethic to become all-conference and possibly an All-American next year..especially with Yogi getting him the ball in the right places. Great kid and a blessing to IU.

  • SCHoosier

    CZ deserves all the credit he has been given. That said..anyone who thinks Davis wasn’t the more dominant player..needs to think again. Cody certainly can get stronger..and  hopefully will be a better rebounder and defensive intimidator. Frankly…given that IU could not afford to have him on the bench..I didn’t think he challenged much defensively. With more depth..maybe he can. Don’t think he’ll ever be a Davis-type defensive player and shot blocker..but he can get much better. Offensively..he needs to develop better moves as pointed out by one rival scourt during the season. Facing the basket..hitting that 15 footer would be a start..also continuing to drive on the guy guarding him…and a good jump hook with either hand. Sure..he could have gone pro–but would have been the last guy on the roster in terms of stregth and offensive skill. He’s making the right decision and certainly has the B-ball IQ/work ethic to become all-conference and possibly an All-American next year..especially with Yogi getting him the ball in the right places. Great kid and a blessing to IU.

  • ace132

    you are correct, he is not as dominant as AD. but in their two meetings, individually who played better against one another? It would be tough to argue against cody in both games. He was the only player in the latter games of the tournament who took it at AD. He was not afraid, he was playing his game and it was working. That is an impressive feat when playing against the best college bball player in the nation.

  • calbert40

    I was hoping that Cody would have a freshman season comparable to DJ White.  I thought that was a lofty, but realistic goal.  DJ won Freshman of the Year in the B1G, led B1G freshman in scoring, blocks and FG %, and ended up being named a Freshman All-American.  He ended up averaging 13.3 pts, 4.9 rebs, 2.2 blks.  Pretty amazing season for a freshman.

    Cody was better.

    We know all of Cody’s awards, but his averages show his versatility compared to a former B1G POY in White.  15.6 ppg, 6.6 rebs, 1.2 assists, 1.2 blocks, 1.4 STEALS!  And that is as a freshman! Those are great stats for a senior! And he should only get better with more experience.

    Simply stated, Cody is one of the best freshmen to ever wear candy stripes, and I believe if he stays long enough (please, Cody!) he could end up as one of the best Hoosiers of all time.

    Thanks for picking IU, CZ!

  • 888

    Codys development in the next year or so coupled with IUs success on the court will open us up to getting top national recruits. Its where this program is starting to head and thats a good thing. Shabazz wouldve looked good in cream and crimson. CTC has said from the beggining its not only important to get the best from Indiana but to add other top players from around the nation. IU can get those types of players and we should. Im not saying turn into pUKe but a nice mix would be good. When kids go pro and have success others want to follow. Cody was the start of all this and we owe him our thanks.

  • jahhoosier

    Since about half-way through the non-conference schedule, I have thought something of Cody that I’ve never thought of any other player.

    It is crazy to predict a national championship for any team. Too much has to go exactly right at the exact right times against the exact right teams.

    If Cody Zeller becomes an upperclassman at IU, Indiana will win a national championship.

    There is not a doubt in my mind about it, at all. Each year he comes back, he will add strength, speed, new skills, and experience. Each year, he will anchor a team that will be improved. Somewhere along the line, IU will win #6. (And heck, there’s a good chance #6 comes next year, even before he has a chance to be an upperclassman.)

    He’s just a wonderful, wonderful player on his way to being truly dominant. Most importantly, all outside appearances suggest he’s a wonderful person, who plays college basketball for all the right reasons.

  • MopLady

    what does his “faith in God” have anything to do with anything???  inappropriate material

  • IUfanPurduePhD

    Agreed on the expectations; I penciled him in for 10 & 5, so surpass he did.

    In addition to the jump shot, I’d love to see him up his rebound and blocks-per-game averages to at least eight and two, respectively.

  • SCHoosier

    No argument here…I think Davis would agree that Cody gave him more of a challenge than anybody else he played this year (except maybe the Vandy center). Just pointing out that Cody had a role to play for IU as Davis did for UK. Being surrounded with so much offensive talent let Davis concentrate on being a dominate defender and rebounder. I’m hoping Cody can move in that direction..but smart of him not to challenge every shoit….cause IU needs him in the line up..period.

  • CreamandCrimson

    What’s inappropriate about it?  The article doesn’t say “his faith in God makes him the best player in the country” or anything like that.  It’s an observation from the writer that I don’t feel is “inappropriate” in any way.  

  • baukev55

    I don’t think Cody will ever be a “dominate defender” just because his arms aren’t that long. If you look at all the great shot blockers (Davis, Howard) they all have freakishly long arms. I’m hoping Perea   can develop like them since he can almost scratch his knees without bending over! Then we can have Cody dominating on the offensive side. 

  • JerryCT

    As terrific as he was this season there is still enormous room for improvement:

    1. The left hand

    2. Playing higher above the rim

    3. Better rebounder

    4. Driving the ball

    5. mid range pop

    His potential is limitless and Yogi should make everybody better.

  • MopMan

    It’s a major part of what makes him an excellent basketball player and person.  This isn’t government censored material, it’s the truth.  Leaving his faith in God out would be a lie and an incomplete description.  Totally appropriate.

  • LTTelamon

    It’s important to Cody. That makes it relevant, and that should be good enough for you.

  • LTTelamon

    It’s important to Cody. That makes it relevant, and that should be good enough for you.

  • jermhoosierfan

    It doesn’t have much to do with the article, but it is something that a lot of people would be surprised about. He doesn’t go around and wear it on his sleeve like Tebow, but it would account for his demeanor and personality. I have read a few articles from SI that mention his involvement in youth camps, but he doesn’t advertise it. That is what I like about him. His religion is personal and should stay that way.

  • JerryCT

     He needs to set some POW, BAM, SPLAT screens with a few broken jaws before I can claim him as my favorite player. I need sound effects.

  • inLinE6

    Don’t be overly sensitive. It may not mean too much but at least he has peace and joy in his game, work with ethics and seek for God’s righteousness. You know he has high standard on and off the court. Not a bad thing, huh?

  • Neiswanger

    Apparantly you have forgotten, my favorite camera shot of the year, Davis on the bench with a “I’m 8 years old and somebody stole my cookie” look on his one and done, never gonna get a d’gre, face. 

  • Neiswanger

    Apparantly you have forgotten, my favorite camera shot of the year, Davis on the bench with a “I’m 8 years old and somebody stole my cookie” look on his one and done, never gonna get a d’gre, face. 

  • http://twitter.com/Cehlerding Christian Ehlerding

    Any ideas as to when Watford makes his decision?

  • inLinE6

    By 4/29 I guess..

  • plane1972

    Well, now I understand why The Pritch is your boy, Jerry. He came to Bloomington with POW, BAM, and SPLAT sound effects included.

  • MillaRed

    Somewhere in American Lit class The Pritch was just whistled for a moving screen.

  • calbert40

    Exactly.  It matters to Cody, and that is the important thing.  If anyone thinks that it isn’t, you should check out his Twitter profile pic.

    He is a great kid, and that is a big part of his life.  I think it is appropriate for the article.

  • calbert40

    Really hope he stays now.  With Burke coming back to UM, the B1G is gonna be very tough at the top.  We need him back.

  • Remy Willing and Abell

    Cody was so much better than I thought he would be , and i thought he would be great . His emotional stability was fascinating to watch . 

  • Kokomo_Joe

    So is Brian Sloan your favorite all time Hoosier?

  • Kokomo_Joe

    So is Brian Sloan your favorite all time Hoosier?

  • Kokomo_Joe

    Shabazz is taboo.  There is a trail of questions and speculation with him.  I will take our #2 recruiting class any day over that clown.

  • Kokomo_Joe

    I think he has.  He is staying.  Waiting until the 29th makes no sense.  He is either good enough or not and from what I have heard, he isn’t even guaranteed to go in the 2nd round.

  • cpmichae

    easy easy. Cody is a fantastic player and will end up having a fantastic career here before he leaves, whether that is this year or in 3 years. But let’s not give this man a championship quite yet. I would like to enjoy the ride if we get there!

  • cpmichae

    No. Mentioning it was fine, but leaving it out would have been equally fine. The fact Cody believes in some higher power is not the reason he is a much better basketball player than me, but I am also fine with it being mentioned in the article. People need to lighten up.

  • Hoosier4life67

    just because you might be an athiest and not understand doesnt mean its inappropriate for others.

  • SCHoosier

    Physically I agree with you..but Cody can improve defensively in a lot of ways involving position..he’s a good on ball defender..not gonna take a lot of charges given unreliable way they are called..but can certainly provide more “help” defense with good positioning.

  • Hoosier4life67

    Just want to say thank you to CZ. You played great this year and looking forward to you dominating next year. You and Yogi will be reunited and should have a great time playing together now. Good luck in your off season workouts and get stronger.  You are the dream student athlete that every program has on there wish list (except maybe kentucky, they dont want 2 year players). Ty for aiding in bringing IU basketball back to the recognition it deserves. God bless you and stay healthy my friend ;)

  • Hoosier4life67

    Just want to say thank you to CZ. You played great this year and looking forward to you dominating next year. You and Yogi will be reunited and should have a great time playing together now. Good luck in your off season workouts and get stronger.  You are the dream student athlete that every program has on there wish list (except maybe kentucky, they dont want 2 year players). Ty for aiding in bringing IU basketball back to the recognition it deserves. God bless you and stay healthy my friend ;)

  • HoosierPat

    The best thing about Cody is that he never stops learning.  We saw him get beat up against MSU the first time, then put up eighteen in the next game against MSU.  He is a great player and he will only get better.  Zellerpalooza was fun and all, but I like watching Cody play in the Cream and Crimson much better.

  • 1scooper

    We the people of Washington knew what kind of player Cody would be and now the world knows.  He’s special and we’re so glad he is in Bloomington.  We look forward to the next three years or whatever he decides.  

  • 323SGrant

    Love Cody’s faith in God.

  • IUCubFan

    What is inappropriate about it? Cream and Crimson asked and I am asking as well.

  • MillaRed

    Like it or not, Cody and Coach Crean are vocal about their beliefs. I follow them both on Twitter. Cody’s avatar is a cross.

    Saying is it “inappropriate” tells me a lot. Good luck with that.

  • MopLady

    I’m not an “athiest”–I just prefer to keep religion personal. I can’t stand proselytizing. I prefer to keep the focus on IU bball and I have mad props for CZ as a person and player. I’d be very surprised if everyone would be as supportive if political ideology were to be incorporated into evaluation as his religion has been infused in the discussion. “politics and religion…”

    On a side note, great to hear CZ/CW back next year! GO HOOSIERS!!!

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