CHICAGO — Indiana All-American Cody Zeller didn’t participate in the day one drills portion of the NBA Draft combine at the Harrison Street Athletics Facility, but he did meet with the media and will participate in Friday’s strength and agility tests.
Inside the Hall was there as Zeller fielded questions from the media on Thursday afternoon. Watch him address a number of topics, including stepping out on the perimeter, his wingspan and more in the embedded media player below:
The NBA Draft Combine begins Thursday in Chicago, and former Indiana players Victor Oladipo and Cody Zeller will be among the players participating. Both Oladipo and Zeller announced last month that they would leave school early for the NBA.
Most teams have done their scouting of all the players entering the draft, and that is unlikely to change based on what they see on Thursday and Friday at the combine. But there are a number of key things NBA teams will learn, such as each player’s official height and weight measurements and what their individual health status is at the present time.
“This is a lot of times the first time coaching staffs have seen these guys,” ESPN’s Chad Ford said Wednesday on a conference call. “First impressions can mean a lot. As far as what they learn from an actual scouting perspective, I don’t think there’s much there. The interview that they do with the players are much bigger because it’s the first time they’re allowed to sit down with the players and actually talk to them. They bring team psychologists in, they bring their team doctors to check them out medically.
“And then it’s the only time that all of these players are going to be on the floor together. You get to see relative size, relative athleticism, relative skill levels compared to each other on the floor at the same time.”
At this point, Oladipo has a higher stock than his former Indiana teammate. He is currently No. 6 on Ford’s Big Board, and the potential is there for him to continue to rise given his work ethic and personality off the court.
One of the few concerns that remains with Oladipo is his size and how close he really is to the 6-foot-5 Indiana listed him at. The teams may learn this week that he is actually an inch or two shorter than that.
“He’s a ridiculous athlete, plays with high energy, high motor, low maintenance guy,” said ESPN’s Fran Fraschilla. “He doesn’t just want to be in the NBA but wants to be an NBA player. … I love him. He’s gonna be a good, solid player.”
Added Ford: “I’m a little bit higher on Oladipo than Fran and part of it’s the work ethic, part of it’s the way that he’s improved. I think that factors in to NBA scouts decisions. Have you worked on your game? Are you improving every year? Are you going to be willing to put the work into the gym that’s necessary? And I think no one has those questions about Oladipo.
“When you see how much he’s improved from year to year, you can start to project that he’s gonna keep working on that jump shot, that he’s gonna keep tightening that handle and becoming better off the dribble. And then defensively, he’s already arrived. He’s a guy that can defend multiple positions in the NBA. I’m a little bit worried about the size, but he’s going to have length and he’s going to have explosive athletic ability. He’s one of the three or four best athletes in this draft. And then he has a motor, and I really feel like that’s an NBA skill. He goes hard all the time.”
Ford talked to former Michigan guard Tim Hardaway Jr. at a workout earlier this week and asked him if he were selecting high in the draft whether he’d rather have Oladipo or Kansas’ Ben McLemore (No. 2 on Ford’s Big Board). Hardaway Jr. played against both Oladipo and McLemore last season.
At last month’s Derby Festival Basketball Classic in Louisville, 2013 Germantown (Wis.) forward and Indiana signee Luke Fischer said he wasn’t concerned about where he fell in the national rankings.
“It doesn’t really bother me that much at all. I really don’t care about rankings,” he told Inside the Hall. “They don’t really mean much to me. I’ve just always gone out there and played and have done my own thing.”
Despite leading his high school to two straight undefeated state championships and winning Mr. Basketball, Fischer isn’t included in the Rivals.com or Scout.com top 100.
But one of the three major services, ESPN, took notice of Fischer’s production as a senior and gave him a major bump in its final 2013 rankings that were released on Wednesday.
The 6-foot-10, 210-pound big man jumped from No. 67 to No. 34 after averaging 21.3 and 9.5 rebounds as a senior.
Three other IU signees — Noah Vonleh (13), Troy Williams (54) and Stanford Robinson (99) — were also included in the ESPNU Top 100.
With the passing of the NBA’s early entry deadline for the draft on April 30, several publications have updated their mock drafts and Indiana junior Victor Oladipo and sophomore Cody Zeller are unanimously in the lottery.
The NBA will hold its annual combine later this month in Chicago and the event will air live on the following times and dates: 10 a.m. May 16, ESPNU; 2 p.m. May 16, ESPN2; 10 a.m. May 17, ESPNU; 2 p.m. May 17, ESPN2.
Here’s a look at where each player is currently projected:
As the 2011-12 college hoops season wrapped and many national pundits ranked the Hoosiers No. 1 heading into this past season — a ranking that eventually carried over to the official AP preseason Top 25 — there was one black mark on Indiana’s resumé: its defense.
“Indiana may well be the proper pick as the best team in the land, but I think if you locked people in a room in late March and made each individual figure it out on his or her own, it wouldn’t have been nearly as obvious that a team with a suspect defense last season should be the best team in the land this season, and at least a few people would have struggled to put them in the top five,” wrote Stats Lord Ken Pomeroy in late October.
ESPN’s Blog Star Eamonn Brennan on the same day: “As the Hoosiers themselves will readily admit, they were not a good defensive team last season. It is rare for a team with a defense so mediocre — they finished ranked No. 64 in adjusted defensive efficiency — to seriously contend for a national title the next season.”
All true and fair. But Indiana quickly shed such a reputation once the ball tipped on the season. It would finish the year No. 13 in adjusted defensive efficiency and show tremendous improvement across the board. The biggest change? Its communication and commitment to team defense. They understood when to switch, when to rotate, when to help and when to stay home. They held each other accountable. They realized good defense could turn into a quick transition bucket, that a turnover or long rebound often meant a dunk or 3-pointer on the other end.
The numbers bear it out. Where Indiana in seasons past struggled to defend the 3-point line — remember games like this or this or this? — they held opponents to a 30.4 percent mark from distance in 2012-2013, 30th best in the nation. An opponent 2-point percentage mark of 43.2 (No. 32) and eFG percentage of 44.0 (No. 15) also had them among the top teams in the nation.
Indiana’s offense was once again elite in 2012-2013, and paired with a much improved defense that wasn’t present in 2011-2012, the Hoosiers spent a majority of the regular season ranked No. 1 in the Associated Press top 25 poll.
Despite a tough last month in which it scored just 1.03 points per possession, Indiana finished the season with the nation’s second best offense at 1.21 points per trip. That was up slightly over last season when IU finished at 1.206.
The improvement was a bit more defined in Big Ten play where IU scored 1.136 points per possession compared to 1.112 last season.
Once again, the efficiency was led by Cody Zeller’s presence in the middle, getting to the foul line and IU’s ability to find shooters on the perimeter. Zeller’s biggest impact was in getting to the foul line, where he posted a free throw rate (FTA/FGA) of 73.2. Indiana shot 904 free throws and made 672 of those attempts compared to 563 attempted for its opponents. Offensive rebounding was a big area of improvement this season as Indiana rose from 59th nationally in on the offensive glass all the way up to seventh. Both Zeller and Victor Oladipo ranked in the top seven in the Big Ten in offensive rebounding.
The 3-point shooting percentage was down from last season, but was still fourth best nationally with four guys — Jordan Hulls, Christian Watford, Oladipo and Remy Abell — finishing at better than 40 percent. After shooting better than 41.2 percent in each month from November through February, the Hoosiers managed just 31.5 percent from behind the arc in March, which was a big reason the offense sputtered down the stretch.
The offense was again incredibly balanced with five guys scoring 9.5 points per game or more and a sixth, Yogi Ferrell, averaging 7.6. The two biggest movers year-over-year were Oladipo and Watford. After an up-and-down sophomore season, Oladipo put it all together as a junior and finished seventh nationally in effective field goal percentage (64.8). Watford shot a ridiculous 48.4 percent on threes, which was up nearly five percent from his junior season and almost 17 percent from where he finished as a freshman.
Those close to Cody Zeller said they didn’t know what his decision would be in the days following Indiana’s season-ending loss to Syracuse in the Sweet Sixteen. His older brother Tyler, now with the Cleveland Cavaliers, was even asked about it before Tuesday night’s game against the Pacers.
But in reality, Zeller kind of knew all along. It’s time to go to the next level.
“After awhile, you just kind of know,” Zeller said at a press conference in Assembly Hall on Wednesday afternoon. “I kind of knew, barring a serious injury, that this might be my last year.”
And so you have it. The young man who helped bring Indiana basketball back will forego his final two college seasons and enter June’s NBA Draft. He joins teammate Victor Oladipo, who declared for the draft on Tuesday.
“I know what we’re losing,” Indiana coach Tom Crean said, “I’ve got the stat sheets. But I don’t dwell on that. People were really looking forward to the opportunity to come play with Cody and win with Cody, and that’s exactly what they did.”
Zeller is projected by many experts to be a lottery pick, though his stock has slipped some from the beginning of the season. Zeller averaged 16.5 points and 8.1 rebounds per game for the Hoosiers last season.
When he told his teammates about his decision to declare, Zeller said they weren’t surprised.
For IU fans, the immediate reaction to the news that sophomore Cody Zeller and junior Victor Oladipo will both enter the 2013 NBA Draft is one of a bittersweet nature.
On one hand, it’s hard to escape the thought of what next season could have looked like had the two All-Americans opted to return for another crack at a national championship. It’s been 26 years since the last national title in Bloomington and the thirst for a sixth banner is undeniable.
But there’s also a sense of pride in knowing that two of the best ambassadors the program has ever seen will get a chance to continue doing what they love and make a living out of it. Both players are expected to be lottery picks and that’s an opportunity that must be taken advantage of when it arises. Oladipo will leave with a degree and Zeller will finish his in short order.
As we move into a new chapter of Indiana basketball that begins now, it’s important to examine the role both Oladipo and Zeller had in the revival and how their early departures, as difficult as they’ll be to overcome next season, are a positive for the long term health of the program.
When Zeller signed his Letter of Intent in November of 2010, he was instantly anointed as the savior. The fact that he spurned North Carolina, a program that at the time was coming off two national championships in the last six years, was significant. It validated what Tom Crean was building in Bloomington with an elite recruit, even if the on court results had yet to materialize. And maybe more importantly, he paved the way for other kids from the state to follow him to IU.
By the time Indiana tipped off the 2011-2012 season, the enormous expectations placed upon Zeller would have been enough to crack most 18-year olds. This wasn’t a batch of McDonald’s All-Americans arriving in Bloomington. It was one McDonald’s All-American who wasn’t going to be able to ease his way into fray of the nation’s most physical conference. Indiana had to win and win big. And it did, largely because Zeller didn’t play like a freshman. He didn’t feel the expectations or the pressure. He just played and did so brilliantly.