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Indiana's Zeller finishes as 2-and-done player

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For more on college athletics, follow Pete DiPrimio via Twitter at pdiprimio.

Sophomore forward leaves for NBA draft

Wednesday, April 10, 2013 - 9:23 pm

BLOOMINGTON – Indiana's Cody Zeller is a two-and-done guy, which is one year better than what normally happens with elite college basketball players these days.

The 7-foot sophomore forward announced Wednesday he's skipping his final two years of college to enter the NBA Draft. He will join junior teammate Victor Oladipo, who announced for the NBA Draft on Tuesday.

Zeller, a second-team All-America as well as an academic All-America, led IU in scoring (16.5 points), rebounding (8.1) and blocked shots (45) while shooting 56.2 percent from the field.

Zeller made instant impact at IU. The Hoosiers won 12 games the season before he arrived. They won 27 and 29 games with him in the lineup. This season they won their first outright Big Ten title in 20 years and were ranked No. 1 for 10 weeks. Over two years he averaged 16.1 points and 7.4 rebounds.

Zeller thought about leaving after last season, but decided to stay because, he said, he enjoyed college and wasn't ready to give up the experience and a chance to play on a national championship team.

Now, apparently, he's ready to move on, although national title aspirations ended with a Sweet 16 loss to Syracuse.

Zeller was considered a potential No. 1 draft pick at the start of the season, but his stock dropped despite his solid numbers. NBA scouts were concerned about a perceived lack of toughness, passive play and an inability to dominate games. Zeller's struggles against physical big men -- highlighted by Minnesota's Trevor Mbakwe and Syracuse's frontcourt players -- could be a problem in the NBA, where the big men are far more rugged and physical.

Still, the NBA drafts on potential, and Zeller's athleticism, skills and high motor (he was perhaps the nation's best running big man) indicate lottery pick potential.

Sports Illustrated has Zeller as the No. 10 pick. NBA DraftExpress has Zeller at No. 6. NBAdraft.net puts him at No. 9.

Based on the NBA rookie scale, Zeller figures to get a three-year contract ranging from $6 million to more than $8 million. If a fourth-year option year is added, it could range from nearly $9 million to almost $12 million.

Oladipo, whose draft projections are similar to Zeller's, would get a comparable contract.

Four times IU has had two first-round draft picks in the same year. The last time came in 2008 when Eric Gordon went No. 7 and D.J. White went No. 29.

The other times were in 1993 (Calbert Cheaney at No. 6, Greg Graham at No. 17), 1981 (Isiah Thomas at No. 2 and Ray Tolbert at No. 18) and 1976 (Scott May at No. 2, Quinn Buckner at No. 7 and Bobby Wilkerson at No. 11).

Overall the Hoosiers have had 20 players drafted in the first round.

Zeller watched his older brother Tyler play against the Indiana Pacers Tuesday night. The older Zeller is a rookie for the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Both Tyler and another older brother, Luke, played four years of college ball.

Luke Zeller was a solid player at Notre Dame, and was a team captain as a senior, when he set career highs for scoring (4.9 points) and rebounding (2.8). He wasn't drafted by a NBA team. He played overseas (including Japan and Europe) and for the NBA D-League. He played in 16 games for the Phoenix Suns this season, averaging 1.2 points and 0.6 rebounds before being waived in late February.

Tyler Zeller was more dominant at North Carolina. He was the ACC player of the year in 2012 and a second team AP All-America after averaging 16.3 points and 9.6 rebounds. He was the No. 17 pick in last year's NBA Draft. The Dallas Mavericks picked him, but then traded him to Cleveland.

He averages 8.2 points and 5.9 rebounds for Cleveland this season while starting 50 games.

All three brothers were Indiana Mr. Basketballs and led Washington High School to state championships.