The biggest surprise of the 2013 NBA Draft likely came with pick No. 4. In a move that stunned many, Charlotte took Indiana power forward Cody Zeller with the fourth overall selection. Bobcat fans watching the draft at a party were not happy.
Zeller went on to have a modest first season, averaging six points, 4.3 rebounds, and 1.1 assists per game for playoff-bound Charlotte, which fell in the first round of the NBA Playoffs to Miami.
It's the offseason now for the seven-foot forward, and here he is back in Bloomington, discussing his first year in the NBA, his time at Indiana, and how playing for the Hoosiers helped prepare him for the professional ranks.
Zeller on his time at Indiana:
How well did playing at IU prepare you for the next level?
"Playing at IU prepared me for the NBA just because you are playing in the Big Ten, playing against the best players in college and then playing at Assembly Hall in front of big crowds and always playing on TV. It kind of prepared me for playing on the big stage of the NBA, especially in the NBA playoffs with millions of people watching, big crowds and every play matters. That was the same way in a lot of the best Big Ten games we played here."
What does the experience of meeting so many Hoosiers across the country mean to you?
"It was unbelievable for me to see the IU support. Obviously I knew the IU support was great here in Bloomington and at Assembly Hall every night, but it was really neat for me just to see the different alumni associations throughout different cities. Obviously the one in Charlotte was a great support when (Victor Oladipo) and I played against each other. I had 30, 40, 50 people in Denver and Philadelphia and throughout the country it seemed like everywhere I went there were IU fans there with number 40 jerseys. That was really neat for me to see and kind of reminded me of Bloomington and back home. It was really humbling this year to see all the IU support."
Knowing the strength of your character, are you still able to follow the same path as a person despite being a public figure?
"Definitely. I don't think the money or the fame of the NBA is going to change who I am. Like someone said, the money doesn't change you, it changes the people that are around you. I really haven't had too much of that. But it is a lot different being a grown up, paying taxes, paying rent, doing all that stuff. I think I'm adjusting to it fairly well."
You were close to graduating when you left Indiana, how are your academic pursuits proceeding?
"I left Indiana with 35 credits until graduation. Basically my next thing is I-Core at the Kelley School of Business. This summer, I'm not able to take it because of summer league and so I'm just taking a couple online classes for some elective requirements. So by the end of summer, I'll be down to 29 and making a little bit of progress, then hopefully do I-Core next summer."
How often do you connect with Hoosier teammates?
"We had a really close group at Indiana my last year. It was a unique opportunity when I was here and I think its life long relationships with those guys. We all kept in touch well, obviously Derek (Elston), Christian (Watford) and Jordan (Hulls) even being overseas playing, we still kept in touch pretty well. Obviously playing Vic throughout the year, it was fun. Even during games, sometimes we'd have a group text going with all of us watching the games and stuff. We definitely stayed in touch with a lot of the IU guys here and watched as much as we could and definitely stayed in touch."
What have you and Coach Crean talked about since you finished your season?
"I talked to Coach Crean when I got back here in the past week or so just about how different the NBA game is and the adjustment and all that. He's been great through it all. It's been a big jump going from college to the NBA, but I feel like my two years at Indiana prepared me well for that jump."