Following in his brothers’ footsteps…

During my senior year of high school, my basketball team won the state championship. Yet no player from our Bloomington High School South received recognition like Cody Zeller, the 7 foot center and power forward , whose smaller high school played in a different division. In November of 2010 when Zeller officially signed with Indiana University, a subtle curiosity lingered throughout town. It had been a while since the school won over a top recruit, but the Hoosier hysteria intrigued Zeller. Similarly, he intrigued us. Only good could come from this fresh talent, but few expected Zeller’s entrance to create team unanimity so strong.

I won’t recap the 2011 season. In short, Zeller proved himself a key player, but he decided not to join the NBA draft. He needed more time and experience in competitive basketball, and he was a crucial component of a team on the rise—he couldn’t leave it so soon.

Then this past week following the end of the 2012-13 NCAA season, Zeller sang a different tune. On Wednesday April 10th, a day after Oladipo confirmed his decision to enter the NBA draft, Zeller proclaimed his same plans. Sophomore Cody Zeller would follow in his brothers’ footsteps, and he would leave the team he had played such an instrumental role in revitalizing. Unlike Oladipo’s decision, Zeller’s was met with a much wider range of responses.

A few factors play into the less approving comments: Junior Oladipo can graduate this May, while Zeller’s decision will put his college degree on hold. Zeller has been known for his strong academics and his impressive work ethic, which he balanced with his diligent commitment to his sport.

But for those stuck in this mind set—don’t fret. Zeller will graduate! With 35 more credits to go until graduating from Kelley School of Business, the current sophomore has mapped out his academic career to be finished within two intense summer sessions. A degree at Kelley Business School is something to take great pride in. If he fumbles in the NBA, Zeller has the credentials and ambition to pursue a career elsewhere.

Maybe some disapproval derives from Watford’s decision the previous year. Watford had decided to stay with the Hoosiers, saying “I’m looking forward to the opportunity to complete my degree and to continue restoring the winning tradition at IU. I believe in Coach Crean and our staff and I am eager to lead my new teammates and build on what we started.”

But come on… Zeller might have played half as many years as Watford, but in that short time, he contributed enormously to the team, alongside primarily senior and junior players. He served as a member of the Wat Squad, the name that I have adopted for my favorite starting line-up. (I only chose to highlight Watford’s name because I could make it rhyme.) This may be the best time for him to move on. It would be too difficult to recreate that strong dynamic with a fresh bunch.

Although I believe more experience would have helped him, I think he seized the opportunity at the right time. Next year, with a dwindling of starting talent, Zeller might not be showcased as prominently.  I look forward to rooting him on in the NBA, but I am also curious to see exactly how he will be able to adapt to the big leagues.

Check out his press conference:

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