We all know how good Cody Zeller is and how good he is going to be this season.
There’s a reason that he’s the Preseason Player of the Year according to, well, just about everyone. And he’s the biggest reason that Indiana is the preseason No. 1 team in the country according to those same folks.
So, again, you don’t need me to explain to you just how talented the youngest Zeller is on a basketball court.
What many of us don’t know about Zeller is how he is off the court. And based off of this terrific profile from Matt Crossman of The Sporting News, it seems like Zeller is a pretty terrific kids.
There are two anecdotes in particular that I want to point out:
When Cody Zeller was in high school, his mom worked in the athletic department. He often hid her stapler in the ceiling panels, which he could reach from his tiptoes. He did the same thing with teachers’ lesson plans. He also liked to get to class early and move the clock ahead 10 minutes.
That’s pretty funny. And smart, too, especially if he can convince the teachers to end class 10 minutes early.
This is the one that sticks out to me, however:
Last season, when Tyler Zeller played for North Carolina, Duke’s Austin Rivers hit a last-second 3-pointer to lift Duke over UNC, one of the most dramatic shots in the history of that rivalry. Tyler was criticized for not getting in Rivers’ face to contest the shot.
A few months later, Indiana was in the closing seconds against VCU in the NCAA Tournament. VCU had the ball with a chance to win. In the huddle, as Indiana discussed defensive switches, Cody vowed to be aggressive. “I even told someone, ‘You better believe I’m going to get out. I’m not going to have a Tyler moment.’ ”
When the play started, Cody blitzed a screen and jumped out on the ballhandler at the 3-point line. That forced the VCU player to drive into the lane. He had no chance to shoot over Zeller, so he passed to a man on the wing. He missed the shot, and the Hoosiers won.
He’s not only talented. He understands the game, but he also understands he still has room to grow and improve. He’s willing to learn.
That’s a valuable trait for a player to have.
Rob Dauster is the editor of the college basketball website Ballin’ is a Habit. You can find him on twitter @robdauster.