IU's "turnaround" has centered around the 2011 recruiting class, in particular Cody Zeller. Zeller was a highly sought after recruit throughout the nation that Tom Crean worked heavily to get to Indiana. Well, now Zeller is here, but what will he contribute on the court that will make IU basketball successful? As a former student at Washington High School, I was fortunate enough to witness the Zeller era and personally watch him perform day in and day out. Fortunately, I have also had a year to see IU's team and what it lacked last year that prevented it from being successful. There are several things that I have examined that Zeller will be able to contribute and fit into IU's scheme that will open the door for success. Not only do I believe Zeller can be successful individually, but with his presence on the court it will allow other players to be as well.
The first contribution Zeller will make will be offensively. Despite the common criticim of him being to small at 215, he does create match up problems. Zeller averaged almost 25 points per game in high school and can shoot the ball fairly well for a big man. While at IU, his ability to shoot and pass as well will stretch defenses as they will have to account for him along the perimeter and mid range as well. Zeller will allow IU to have another offensive threat to go along with Watford, Hulls, and Jones III. Also, as I witnessed many times while watching Zeller, he has a tremendous ability to run the court as a big man. For a big man, Zeller is so quick getting up and down the court, it often wears down his opponent trying to guard him. This skill can open up a transition game for IU as well. By beating his man down the court, Zeller often gets fast break points via dunks, etc., but what is most important is how this wears down the person trying to guard him. As I saw watching him play, by wearing that person down, it often leads to sloppy fouls which gets Zeller to the free throw line quite often. With the ability to stretch defenses and his ability in the transition game, not only does Zeller give himself the chance to succeed offensively, but gives guys like Jordan Hulls and Verdell Jones III to work free on the perimeter and in the mid range game where they are the best.
Zeller will also help contribute defensively. Although he is still growing and getting bigger, the fact is he is a 6-11 extremely talented power forward/center. Zeller has tremendous rebounding ability and this is one thing IU has lacked in recent years. Zeller average around 13 rebounds per game in his final year in high school. He is aggressive on the boards and doesn't give up. By adding a 6-11 aggressive rebounder, Crean and company hope that the team can compete on the boards if not have an advantage with the likes of Tom Pritchard, Christian Watford, Zeller, and Derek Elston working down low throughout the game.
Another contribution to the team that Zeller and other members of his recruiting class such as Austin Etherington and Remy Abell contribute to the team is depth. With Zeller, IU now has four solid big men that can play down low. This is a benefit because, at times last year, we saw players like Tom Pritchard get in foul trouble and we just weren't deep enough to handle that dilemma. However, with Zeller, Tom Crean will be able to work the rotation so as that we can avoid or account for situations such as that. With more depth comes more options, and for Tom Crean and IU fan, we can't help but be optimistic that with all these new options, we should see some success.
2011 seems to be very optimistic in the eyes of IU fans. With all the talent that Cody Zeller and the 2011 recruiting class has brought to IU basketball, we have a reason to be. Zeller brings so much to the table offensively and defensively that we can only see IU basketball improving. Is this the stepping stone that will lead to IU basketball success and tournament appearances? We can only wait to see as the 2011 season unfolds. When the November 11th opener against Stony Brook arrives, Indiana Hoosier nation will get to finally see what these new recruits will contribute and how our Hoosiers will perform. This date could be the beginning of a great season for both the team and for fans alike.