Cody Zeller will be a program-changer
By landing in-state talent Cody Zeller, the best player available in the 2011 class, Indiana Hoosiers coach Tom Crean has taken the first major step toward rebuilding the program.
The No. 15 overall player, who kept his decision in complete secrecy until he made his announcement, becomes Crean's highest-ranked player since taking over the tradition-rich Indiana program. More importantly, landing an in-state talent like Zeller sends a message loud and clear to the other recruits in the state that Indiana is on its way back to the top of the Big Ten. On top of that, he will attract players throughout the country wanting to play with him because he is a very unselfish player.
Zeller, 6-foot-11 and 210 pounds, has all the qualities a coach loves in a developing post player. He is very mobile, runs the floor like a deer, and has great feet and hands to catch and score on the break. On top of being a terrific rim-runner, he can score with his back to the basket, mostly with his jump hook, and is great in pick-and-pop or pick-and-roll situations. Couple that with his ability to rebound on both ends, and he is a walking double-double with a high basketball IQ.
Zeller's best days are ahead of him because as he continues to add strength, becomes more aggressive and improves his back-to-the-basket scoring package, his already productive game will go to the next level. Crean will get the ball to him where he is in a position to score in Indiana's half-court set, and Zeller will patrol the lane on defense with his great length and ability to block shots.
Zeller joins AAU teammate, SF Austin Etherington (Hamilton Heights, Ind./Hamilton Heights), which keeps the Indiana Elite AAU pipeline intact. Including 2012 commits, Zeller is the eighth player from this program to commit to Indiana under Crean's watch.
By not landing Zeller, Butler and North Carolina will have to move on to the next player on their boards. However, they will not be able to land a big who is the same caliber as Zeller. While the Tar Heels simply lost out on another big-time talent -- they still have a top-five class -- this is a pretty big blow to Butler. It's not often the Bulldogs are in the running with big-time programs, but with the recent success of the program, they thought they had a real shot at landing Zeller, who would have been a complete program-changer and opened the door for more elite prospects to play at Butler.
Reggie Rankin was an assistant coach at seven schools for 13 seasons, most recently at Dayton. He played at Ohio University from 1986 to 1990 and was an All-MAC first-teamer in his senior season. Don't forget to follow him on Twitter.