March 5, 2012
BLOOMINGTON, Ind. - Indiana freshman forward Cody Zeller was named the 2012 Big Ten Freshman of the Year by the league's coaches, announced by the Big Ten office on Monday, March 5. Juniors Jordan Hulls and Christian Watford, and sophomore Victor Oladipo also earned postseason honors.
Zeller, who is the eighth Hoosier to be named Big Ten Freshman of the Year (Jay Edwards-1988; Eric Anderson-1989; Damon Bailey-1991; A.J. Guyton-1997; Jared Jeffries-2001; D.J. White-2005; Eric Gordon-2008), earned Second Team All-Big Ten honors from the coaches and media, and was named to the All-Freshman Team by the coaches. Oladipo was named to the Big Ten All-Defensive Team by the coaches. Watford was named to the Big Ten Honorable Mention team by the league's coaches and media, while Hulls and Oladipo earned Honorable Mention honors from the media.
Zeller's presence inside has resulted in a more balanced Indiana team this season, which went 24-7 in the regular season becoming the most improved team among major conference programs with a +12 in the win column from the previous season. The Washington, Ind., native leads the Hoosiers with 15.4 points and 6.4 rebounds per game, while shooting a league-best 63.5 percent from the field and is on pace to break the school's single-season shooting mark of 62.8 set by Matt Nover in 1992-93. He also ranks among the top-five in the nation in field goal percentage. But more importantly, he has helped Indiana develop as one of the best 3-point shooting teams in the country, without even taking a shot from beyond the arc. The Hoosiers ranked 162nd in the nation from the 3-point line last season and currently rank third in the country at 43.2 percent, while leading the Big Ten.
A seven-time Big Ten Freshman of the Week, Zeller is one of five finalists for the Wayman Tisdale Award, which is awarded by the USBWA to the National Freshman of the Year. He was also named Second Team Midseason All-American by ESPN.com, the Sporting News and SI.com, was one of four Big Ten players named to the Midseason Top 25 list for the Wooden Award, and one of three freshmen being considered for the Oscar Robertson Award. Zeller is also one of four players in the Big Ten on the Naismith Men's Basketball Player of the Year Award Midseason 30 Watch List.
Zeller averaged 19.4 points per game in nine Big Ten home games after recording 13 points against Purdue and 18 points against Michigan State to end the regular season. He had 15 points and a career-high 13 rebounds at Iowa, 23 points and seven boards against Northwestern, and 22 points and five rebounds against Illinois. He had a career-high 26 points on 11-of-12 shooting against Iowa in Bloomington and notched 16 points and eight rebounds at Purdue. He also recorded 11 points and seven rebounds against Kentucky.
Oladipo, a native of Upper Marlboro, Md., has been Indiana's defensive spark all season, leading the Hoosiers in steals at 46 on the year and ranking among the best in the league. But his offensive body of work has helped ignite the Hoosiers late in the season after recording a career-high 23 points at Purdue on Feb. 4. Since that game, Oladipo has averaged 14.8 points per game, while the Hoosiers ended the regular season winning seven of their last eight games. His sophomore campaign is also highlighted by his performances against Ohio State, where he recorded 15 points, six rebounds and three steals, while making the game-winning layup in the final minute. He was also a major factor in Indiana's wins over Kentucky and Notre Dame, while posting 13 points and two steals against Michigan State, 15 points at Iowa, 12 points, six boards, four assists and two steals against Northwestern and 18 points against Illinois.
Watford, a native of Birmingham, Ala., ranks second on the team in scoring with 11.8 points per game and is among the best free throw shooters in the Big Ten, shooting 79.3 percent from the charity stripe. He's also averaged 5.6 rebounds per game, which ranks second on the team, and he ranks sixth in the Big Ten in defensive boards (4.4 rpg). The 6-9 forward sank the game-winning 3-pointer to give Indiana 73-72 win over No. 1 Kentucky on Dec. 10 and recorded 20 points, five rebounds and a steal, while shooting 4-of-6 from beyond the arc against the Wildcats. He led the Hoosiers with 19 points in their regular season finale win over Purdue, recorded 10 points and a career-high 14 rebounds against Michigan State, 12 points and six rebounds at Minnesota, along with 18 points and five rebounds against Illinois. He is second among Big Ten juniors with 1,199 career points and is the 43rd Hoosier to top the 1,000-point mark in his career.
Hulls, a native of Bloomington, Ind., is averaging 11.1 points and 3.4 assists per game in his junior campaign. He's among the best in the Big Ten at the free throw line, sinking 88.9 percent of the shots and ranks second in the conference in 3-point field goal percentage at 48.0. Hulls recorded 20 points in a win at NC State and 28 points in a win at Penn State. He also had 10 points and three steals against Michigan State, 12 points and three assists at Minnesota, 16 points against Illinois, 10 points at Purdue and a team-high 18 points at Michigan.
Hulls was also named Indiana's Sportsmanship Award Honoree. He is now a finalist for the Big Ten's Sportsmanship Award, which will be presented to one male and one female Big Ten student-athlete at the end of the 2011-12 school year.