BLOOMINGTON, Ind. - Indiana University men's basketball All-American Cody Zeller has announced that he will forgo his final two years of eligibility and enter the NBA Draft.
"The past two years here have been probably the best two years of my life," Zeller said in a press conference held in Assembly Hall on Wednesday, April 10. "Being able to play basketball for these coaches and with the guys in that locker room and in front of the fans of Indiana has been great. At this part in my life I think it's best for me to pursue my dream of playing in the NBA."
Zeller, a native of Washington, Ind., led the Hoosiers during his sophomore campaign with 16.5 points, 8.1 rebounds and 1.3 blocks per game. He ranks among the top-five in the Big Ten in scoring, rebounds and field goal percentage (56.2). In 72 career games at Indiana, Zeller averaged 16.1 points, 7.3 rebounds, 1.3 assists, 1.2 blocks and 1.2 steals per game. He helped lead the Hoosiers to back-to-back NCAA Sweet Sixteen's for the first time since 1994 and the program's first outright Big Ten regular season championship since 1993. During his tenure at IU, the Hoosiers have led all major college conference teams in field goal percentage (48.7), 3-point field goal percentage (41.6), free throws made (1327) and free throws attempted (1762). He owns 1,157 career points, ranking 36th all-time at Indiana and holds IU's record for career field goal percentage at 59.1.
"It's important that we do things the exact right way for all of these guys when they have opportunities that they have, when they mean to the program to the university what they mean and certainly Cody Zeller means an awful lot to all of us," said head coach Tom Crean. "It doesn't seem that long ago that we are all gathered in Cook Hall after he made his announcement in the Washington High School gym that he was coming to Indiana, it became one of the most talked about, trended, googled, tweeted things of the day and certainly helped change things in this program and what Cody means to Indiana, it's much like with Victor (Oladipo), it's hard to describe it and it's hard to put into words, but what Cody has done in the short period of time that he's been a part of Indiana Basketball has been help raise the level of everyone in this program, every coach, every manager, every player, every person associated with it and that's not an easy feat. He's got a unique skill set, he's got unique athleticism, he's got unprecedented character, and an absolute thrill and joy to watch him develop over these last couple years to help get his game and to help our team to where it has been. When you look at what has happened here with the 56 wins that he's been a part of since he's been at Indiana, the Big Ten Championship, he's really come in here left his mark on this program and one that will stand for a very long time."
Zeller, the 2012 Big Ten Freshman of the Year and a consensus Freshman All-American, earned several Preseason National Player of the Year honors his sophomore season. At the conclusion of the season, he was named a Basketball Times and Sports Illustrated First Team All-American and a Capital One First Team Academic All-American. He earned a spot on the John R. Wooden All-America Team, while also being a named a Second Team All-American by the Associate Press, USBWA and the NABC. He earned third team honors from Sporting News and was a First Team All-Big Ten and All-Big Ten Tournament selection. Zeller also earned All-Tournament Team honors from the Legends Classic, a tournament the Hoosiers won in November. He also earned Academic All-Big Ten honors.
The 2013 NBA Draft will take place on Thursday, June 27.
Cody Zeller Opening Statement
"The past two years here have been probably the best two years of my life. Being able to play basketball for these coaches and with the guys in that locker room and in front of the fans of Indiana has been great. At this part in my life I think it's best for me to pursue my dream of playing in the NBA."
On what his decision making process was:
"My family was a very big part of it as was the coaching staff. It was great for me to have the people I'm closest to help me make my decision. At the end of the day I knew I needed to do what was best for myself and I feel like this is what is best."
On playing at Assembly Hall:
"Playing at Assembly Hall brings so many memories to mind, even the things that the public didn't see as far as the practices and the fun times we had in the locker room. We were a very close group both years that I was here with the coaches and the players, and I will carry those relationships with me through the rest of my life. This is a great place."
On the pro's and con's he weighed when making his decision:
"I could have made a case for both sides. Obviously my education is important to me, but I'm only 35 credits shy of graduation, which will take me two summers to complete. The first summer will be 14 credits completing ICORE for the Business School, which will leave me with 21. The second summer I'll take 15 credits and then I'll finish the remainder six credits online. Right now I plan on coming back and finishing that."
On how it was different making the decision this year compared to last year:
"A big part of it was that the leaders on this team that I came into the program looking up to and copying their work ethic - Victor (Oladipo), Christian (Watford), Jordan (Hulls), and Derek (Elston) - were leaving. Obviously IU will have a great year next season but the guys that I was closest to are graduating. It will be fun to go through the workouts with Victor and being in the same situation. We've already been working out together and it will be fun to have someone go through the same things as me and compare notes with."
On what's next in terms of getting ready:
"The past couple of weeks have been tough academically getting caught up with the work I missed during the tournament. The past two weeks I have just been studying like crazy trying to get caught up, but I have been working out hard during these five or six weeks before the NBA Draft Combine and working out for individual teams, and then go from there."
Tom Crean Opening Statement:
"It's important that we do things the exact right way for all of these guys when they have opportunities that they have, when they mean to the program to the university what they mean and certainly Cody Zeller means an awful lot to all of us. It doesn't seem that long ago that we are all gathered in Cook Hall after he made his announcement in the Washington High School gym that he was coming to Indiana, it became one of the most talked about, trended, googled, tweeted things of the day and certainly helped change things in this program and what Cody means to Indiana, it's much like with Victor, it's hard to describe it and it's hard to put into words but what Cody has done in the short period of time that he's been a part of Indiana Basketball has been help raise the level of everyone in this program, every coach, every manager, every player, every person associated with it and that's not an easy feat. He's got a unique skill set, he's got unique athleticism, he's got unprecedented character, and an absolute thrill and joy to watch him develop over these last couple years to help get his game and to help our team to where it has been. When you look at what has happened here with the 56 wins that he's been a part of since he's been at Indiana, the Big Ten Championship, he's really come in here left his mark on this program and one that will stand for a very long time."
On what the next step is in his path to the NBA:
"He will sign with an agent as soon as he and his family are ready to do that. He will do everything he needs to do here academically between now and the end of the semester. We will continue to work out here with structure that focused on two parts - preparation for what he's about to do but most importantly improvement and what he needs to get better at and have the two of them go hand in hand as possible and try to keep life as normal as possible while he's here. Once the semester's over then decisions get made from there as far as to what he'll do next and where he'll do it from, I would think that the main thing that's going to come up along with Victor are the NBA workouts and the NBA pre-draft camp will come up and just getting ready for that process. I don't think getting a suit anytime is anything he needs to do anytime soon but I'm sure that will be worked in."
On where his stock could be:
"I think the biggest thing is a great learning lesson for everyone in our program is it doesn't come down to what's said and what's written it really comes down to what decision makers feel and see. There's nothing that has come back from the undergraduate advisor committee or the general managers and scouting directors that have said anything less than we would have expected, which is for him to be somewhere in that lottery area without getting more specific than that and everything's been centered on that. He could have done the same thing a year ago but he chose to stay because he chose to make the decision that it wasn't what he wanted at that point in time and wanted to continue to grow, get better, get stronger, play with this team, get the degree or closer to the degree and he's done all that. I think his stock with where he's at with the people that make the decisions and sign the checks is very high. Once they see Cody in the settings of the workouts, in the settings of the competitions, the settings of the weight rooms, and the settings of the interview process they'll be even more amazed. That's one of the things that he's really got going for him I think he's going to continue to impress people because of who he is, but I would also say that when we talk about where he's at with graduation wise. Some of the best people in the game are blown away by that, now does that increase his draft status, probably not but does that add to what kind of person, to what kind of character, to what kind of resolve and perseverance and focus and maturity that he has, absolutely. Those things transfer and I think that's some of the stuff that he's really got going for him."
On if he's enjoying the situation and looking for similar situations in the future:
"Well if you're having this situation, it means you're winning a lot of games and 56 wins over two years is a lot of games. You always want to win more but then you have to put it into perspective and these guys have won a big trophy and put a banner up and I think that's really strong. I always have a different viewpoint of it. Because it's not the elation, its not the bittersweet, you just stay focused with them. These young men are our responsibility and they never really stop being people that you want to see get better in every area but this is whether it's the workouts with our team right now which have been going on since last Wednesday on the court or whether it's the workouts with Cody and Victor and Christian (Watford) and Jordy (Hulls) when he gets back from Portsmith, everyone is different and every situation is different and you want to keep getting them ready for what's next for them. You get so locked in to what that is, there's no question you feel fulfilled because that's what they come for. They come to get better, to improve, they come to win, but they come to go to the next level. When you get somebody at that position, all we ever ask is that you come in with your bags unpacked and if you're ready to do it and it's the right time, we will help you pack your bags. That's the biggest difference I hope we never become a program where we feel that a guy has two or three bags packed. Keep them unpacked, let's get better, let's see where it goes, and I think that these guys trust that we're going to push them and drive them as hard as any. That's what you want, because you want them prepared for what they're going to do. At the same time this program is built on helping everybody fulfill what they're capable of fulfilling and even when they can't see it, keep pushing them to those points."
On how hard it is to plan ahead players leaving early:
"I've been at it awhile it's not that hard, its really not. You don't really talk a lot about it publicly and you don't so to speak `put your business on the street that way,' but you have a responsibility to them without a doubt but you have a responsibility to your program, and I don't have any trouble with balancing those two. There's always going to be things that go on and only those inside the doors of it will truly have a grasp of and that's just how it is. We better have a grasp of it and we do, and this business speaking of moving targets, this business is one. There are a lot of different things that go into decision making and to building your roster and building your team and there's a lot of influx in this game and that's the way that it is. If you're going to be successful you're going to deal with that. We're fully prepared for that."
On how the team will be without these players:
"That's a hypothetical, I haven't really gotten there, we're so focused on the three parts of helping them get where they need to go now as they go through this transition process, making the team better that's here and getting ready for the new guys and making sure that they understand. Do the new guy's roles go up, in some cases significantly, but they were recruited for that. Do the roles of the people that are in the program go up, absolutely, but they've been here every day and they're either going to prepare for that and accept that challenge or they don't want to be in that situation. Either way we have got to keep moving forward and I know what we're losing, I've got the stat sheets but I don't dwell on that. I focus on how much better we're going to make everyone else here, what we're going to do in recruiting and most importantly being able to watch these guys go to their next destination, like I said with Victor, being NBA ready and NBA ready means being able to do whatever is asked of them even though they might not have the age and experience to do it but they're ready because they've been coached and they've been raised right by their families and this program and they know what's expected of them and they'll do it."