Cody Zeller did not rely on Photoshop to add 15 pounds to his seven-foot frame.
BLOOMINGTON, Ind. (WDRB) – The latest count of the number of pre-season college basketball publications that feature Cody Zeller on the cover is four. Derek Elston, Zeller's teammate at Indiana University, has been there to capture the moment when Cody Zeller looks at a magazine and sees Cody Zeller.
"He'll laugh," Elston said.
Here is the thing that is no laughing matter to teams scheduled to play Indiana this season: Zeller has added 12-to-15 pounds of muscle to a silo-sized frame that has stretched by a half-inch, enabling Zeller to officially call himself a seven-footer.
"With my shoes on," Zeller said, with a wink.
That's the way Zeller goes through life – with a wink. He turned 20 Friday, but don't expect him to stop acting like a teenager. Wednesday evening, during the presidential debate, Zeller didn't wait for ABC or Fox to declare the winner, delivering this 84-character analysis on Twitter:
"All that I've decided from watching this debate is that I need to run for president."
Cody Zeller, cover boy, is another Twitter target for Cody Zeller. This is what he said after somebody showed him a copy of Zeller hanging on the rim on the front of The Sporting News pre-season college basketball edition, a top candidate for national player of the year:
"Thanks to SportingNews for Photoshopping some muscles into this picture. It's amazing what you can do with a computer."
The Sporting News is innocent of that allegation. Zeller and his Indiana teammates were available for a media session Thursday, and there is nothing exaggerated about the reports that Zeller has gotten larger, stronger, better.
His vertical jump has improved by two inches. He can bench press 185 pounds 22 times, a dozen more times than he could push 185 off the weight rack when Zeller arrived at IU from Washington (Ind.) High School in June 2011.
Zeller said that he still cannot handle teammate Jordan Hulls in a game of H-O-R-S-E -- unless Hulls, IU's senior guard, agrees to shoot left-handed. But he does plan to deliver on coach Tom Crean's request that he shoot the basketball from 12, 15 and even 20 feet.
"I've always shot a little bit outside," Zeller said. "I didn't shoot as much last year (no three-point attempts). I still had the same shot. I just felt like it was better for the team if I was shooting more inside, letting Jordy and some of the guys shoot outside more.
"This year I'm going to have to shoot more outside because I'm going to be seeing a lot of double teams in the post. I kind of have to because I don't want to be double- teamed the whole game. They'll move me around a little bit because it will make it tough to double team."
College basketball practice does not officially open until next Friday, when Indiana's opening session will be broadcast live on ESPNU at 5 p.m. with Jay Williams and Dan Dakich providing analysis.
That is when Crean can begin to deliver all the instructions. During the off-season, Zeller has done much of his work with teammates and Je'Ney Jackson, IU's strength and conditioning coach.
Jackson said that Zeller, a sophomore, has been a model student throughout his time at IU, making all his weight room sessions while encouraging teammates to work as hard as he does. IU assistant coach Tim Buckley said that one of Jackson's first requests to Zeller was that he drink a protein shake every day at 1 p.m.
"You tell Cody to drink a protein shake at 1 p.m. and he drinks a protein shake at 1 p.m.," Buckley said. "You can see the results."
The results last year were that Zeller averaged 15.6 points, 6.6 rebounds, 1.2 blocks, 1.3 assists and 1.4 steals. Expect the rebound and block totals to be the ones that show the most improvement this season. If you want to pick at Zeller's game, rebounding is the area that needs work. He ranked 232nd in the nation in that category.
Improvement in the scoring average is tougher to predict. Zeller can do more things, but Indiana returns four other starters from its 27-9 team, as well as two top reserves and four solid freshmen. Zeller is not a guy who hunts shots, but he has prepared himself to do more.
"To have to guard Cody in the post last year was tough enough," Elston said. "He's added a jump shot to his game, a three-point shot to his game.
"How he just plays with people double-teaming, maybe even triple teaming him is going to be fun to watch. Cody has raised his game unbelievably. I don't even know how to explain it. It's going to be fun to watch."
Copyright 2012 WDRB News. All Rights Reserved.
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