CHICAGO – Cody Zeller has a luxury that few college basketball players can use as a resource. As a sophomore stud at one of the nation's best basketball programs, few could relate to the pressures that Zeller feels on a daily basis.
Fans have expectations of him, coaches have expectations of him, friends and family have their expectations as well. So who could Zeller possibly turn to for advice when contemplating the biggest decision of his life?
Well, his older brother, Tyler, who is currently walking along a similar path proved to be a good start.
Tyler just completed a solid four-year career at North Carolina this spring and is projected to be among the top centers selected in the NBA Draft on June 28. He spent last week participating in the NBA Draft Combine in Chicago.
Tyler and Cody had discussions earlier this spring about the younger Zeller's future and when the talking ceased, the message to Cody was that it was his life and he'd have to be the one to figure it out.
“We talked about it because I went through the same thing last year,” Tyler said. “He had to make his own decision this year.”
Their paths aren't exactly the same in that Cody has made a much smoother transition to the college game than Tyler did. Cody averaged over 15 points and six rebounds as a freshman, while it took Tyler until his junior season to reach those levels.
According to Tyler, every player is different in how they develop, and at what pace they develop. Even if they share DNA.
“It changes with every player,” Tyler said. “You've got to make sure that you find your little niche. Based on the team that you are on, you've got to be able to have the diversity to be able to fit in. If you are a post player at the other position, then you have to be able to shoot and spread the floor and vice versa.”
The two Zeller brothers share similar hoop skills in that neither are incredibly overpowering, but they each are very good athletes with length that can utilize quickness and mobility to their advantage.
The initial Zeller brother to compete at the high-major level was older brother, Luke, who played at Notre Dame. Both he and Tyler graduated from their universities following their four-year careers, but according to Tyler, the academic part of the equation on whether to turn pro or not isn't as strong at this point in time as one might have thought.
“Not much,” Tyler said of his weighing graduation versus turning pro a year ago. “You have to weigh the basketball side of it. The academic side is kind of a bonus. It was something that was a little bit (important), but not really involved.”
There is a lot for Cody to look forward to over the next year, as the Hoosiers are regarded by some as the best college team in the nation. However, his ultimate dream according to his brother is the same that is shared by virtually every amateur player and that is to make the NBA.
“It's his decision and you can't go back to college (and play),” Tyler said. “But the prospect of playing in the NBA has always been important to us.”