As was first reported by Jeff Rabjohns of Peegs and has been parroted by many other sources, Cody Zeller will hold a 4:10 press conference today and will announce that he is leaving IU to enter the NBA Draft.
So many others have said things along these lines that it seems trite to mention what a pivotal, program-changing recruit Cody Zeller was for IU. Not only is he a great player, but he's a fantastic student, the salutatorian of his high school class, and he comes from a fine family that had loads of experience with big time college basketball recruiting. Cody Zeller is all of those things. To the extent I can add anything that hasn't been beaten into the ground, it's that it's important to reflect on just how grim things were before Zeller committed. The offseason of 2010 followed Crean's second season, and it was clear that the comeback of IU's program was not going to be easy. More importantly, there was no guarantee that a comeback would happen at all. As Crean said at his introductory press conference, "it's Indiana." We all believe that, but plenty of elite programs have endured years, even a decade or more, of mediocrity before returning to national relevance. In 2010, Butler had just played in the NCAA title game. Purdue had won the Big Ten and probably would have been a #1 seed in the NCAA Tournament had Robbie Hummel not injured his knee. After having whiffed on Kyrie Irving, IU's recruiting was going nowhere. While IU landed a couple of 2012 commitments before Zeller signed, his signing was the turning point. Yogi committed a few days later, and it became more and more clear that there would be a comeback.
Zeller's sophomore season is being cast in some quarters as a disappointment. I guess I can buy that a bit. His modest increased in points and rebounds per game were offset by a five percent decline in field goal percentage and an increase in turnovers. Still, it says something about the high expectations facing Zeller that a second team All-American could be in any sense disappointing. Above all, everyone associated with IU wishes this season had not ended in the Sweet 16. Still, at some point the Hoosiers will again break through in the Tournament, and even though he will not be on the roster, Cody Zeller will deserve part of the credit for that. Thanks, Cody, and good luck.