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Zellers are coming to Fort Wayne

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Follow Pete DiPrimio via Twitter at www.twitter.com/pdiprimio

DistinXion camp to build life skills

Monday, July 1, 2013 - 11:06 pm

The Zellers are coming.

DistinXion, it seems, has its privileges.

Cody will be in Fort Wayne next week if his schedule permits it as part of the DistinXion camp experience. Now that the former Indiana Hoosier is a Charlotte Bobcat (he was drafted with the No. 4 pick last week), his priorities center on more than DistinXion, the Zeller non-profit organization that builds character and basketball skills through a series of camps.

Also look for Tyler Zeller, who is set to begin his second season with the Cleveland Cavaliers. And then there's Luke Zeller, the oldest of the brothers and the inspiration for DistinXion. He's looking for a return to the NBA after making his debut with the Phoenix Suns last season. All the brothers hope to at least make an appearance in Fort Wayne, just as they did during Cody's introductory Bobcat press conference on Friday in Charlotte. The Zeller brothers' parents, Steve and Lorri, will be there.

The three-day DistinXion camp in Fort Wayne runs July 9-11 at Emmanuel Community Church on West Jefferson Blvd. It's for students from grades 2 through 8. For registration details and other information, check out www.distinxion.org.

“The objective is combine character training as well as basketball training,” Luke said. “Put those together and give back to the kids the experience we had growing up. We'll teach character and basketball development throughout.”

The Fort Wayne camp is one of 13 camps set for the summer, 11 in the state of Indiana, one each in North Carolina and Ohio.

You might think the character sessions would resemble the things parents force kids to do, like eat spinach or clean their rooms.

Not so, Luke said.

“They are like five to 10 minutes at a time. It's things like giving a good firm handshake or making good eye contact. We do a funny little skit with table manners where I've got a whistle. We teach in a fun and interactive way. It's real life skills that will last a lot longer than when the ball stops bouncing.”

Luke came up with the DistinXion idea as part of a business competition while he was at Notre Dame.

“I wrote a 78-page business plan for it,” he said. “There were 85 plans entered and we finished in the top 18. From there we've had a lot of counsel, a lot of perspective, a lot of advice to enable us to move forward. We continue to learn and grow.”

Growth started with 30 students and one camp in 2009. Now it's up to more than 1,500 participants.

“We'd love to continue to grow,” Luke said. “We'll grow as much as we can, but we don't want quantity over quality. To have high-quality camps in Indiana is the first step. We want to give opportunities to kids in Indiana to play basketball, but also learn things that will help them long past basketball.”

Cody, meanwhile is determined to silence critics who said Charlotte should have drafted Kentucky's Nerlens Noel, Maryland's Alex Lens or Kansas' Ben McLemore.

Bobcats officials have praised Cody's versatility, athleticism and character.

Zeller was one of two former Hoosiers selected in the top four of Thursday's NBA draft. The other was guard Victor Oladipo, who was drafted second by the Orlando Magic.