BLOOMINGTON – Is Cody Zeller pressure-proof? Is the weight of Cream 'n Crimson basketball expectations as burdensome as a butterfly?
We're about to find out. If any player is prepared for messiah buildup on a national stage, it is this heralded Indiana freshman. He does, after all, have two older major-college-playing brothers, and has thrived at every level since he was a boy. So when Zeller was asked during Wednesday's news conference about the pressures he will face in his college debut season, he didn't blink.
“I don't pay any attention to that,” he said. “I'm glad to be here working out. I'll work as hard as I can and see what happens.”
Nothing is guaranteed except Zeller will battle some of the nation's most formidable players and teams. He says he has no specific goals other than winning, which should thrill fans starving for a return to the program's winning ways after three straight 20-loss seasons.
“I don't have any numbers in mind. I'm just trying to do whatever I can to help the team win. That's all I can do.”
Actually, the 6-11 Zeller also can gain weight. He arrived in Bloomington in late June weighing 210 pounds. Nearly two months with strength coach Je'Ney Jackson has got him to 225, with the hope of reaching 235 by November.
“I've gained strength. I've done agility drills. I'm not quite where I need to be. I'm still getting bumped on some of my moves.”
Zeller lifted weights in high school, but it wasn't basketball-specific. That changed under Jackson.
“He's good at developing you to become stronger for basketball,” Zeller says. Zeller figures to be a power forward at Indiana, with senior teammate Tom Pritchard taking more of a center role, but things can get fluid in coach Tom Crean's system, which is why Zeller is working at both positions.
“I do post moves and stepping out a little bit,” he says. “Just keep on doing what I'm doing. Coaches can't be at any of the workouts right now. I haven't had a whole lot of instruction yet.
“The five guy (center) is more of a banger, more of a bigger guy, so I think I'm probably better defending the four guy (power forward). Hopefully, as I get stronger, I'll be able to guard both.”
Zeller played on three Indiana state title teams at Washington. He played on successful travel ball squads. He earned Indiana Mr. Basketball and prep All-America honors. He is the most heralded Hoosier recruit since Eric Gordon's one-and-done season of 2007-08.
“Cody is strong down low and can do a lot in the post,” freshman Remy Abel said. “He has a midrange game. He's a very good player.”
Older brothers Luke and Tyler have stressed to Zeller the importance of getting stronger. He also understands and appreciates the opportunity he has.
“College is some of the best years of your life. I'm going to enjoy that aspect.”