Bloomington, Ind. – As Tyler Zeller and the Indiana Elite gear up for the start of this weekend's May Classic in Bloomington, they do so with one goal in mind.
"The goal is to win them all," Zeller said of his AAU team's thought process about each summer event. "We definitely have enough talent to do that."
There's little question about that. In addition to the 7'0" Zeller – the 25th-ranked player in the '08 class according to Scout.com – Indiana Elite has a handful of others who are highly-coveted recruiting targets as well.
Along the frontcourt, Zeller is joined by 7'0" center Beas Hamga and 6'7" forward Emmanuel Negedu. Hamga is prepping at Decatur (Ill.) Christian H.S., and remains a potential Class of 2007 recruit as well. Negedu, meanwhile, is the 60th-ranked player in the class and has already verbally committed to Arizona.
There are just as many top-flight recruiting targets in the backcourt. Six-foot-three Ohio State commit Walter Offutt is the 28th-ranked shooting guard in the country, while 6'6" Chicagoan DeAndre Liggins is the 31st ranked player in the class overall and the seventh-ranked small forward. Point guard Lewis Jackson is a 5'10", 170-pounder who is ranked No. 27 nationally at his position, and Matt Roth is a 6'2" shooting guard who has been one of the team's top scorers.
It's a talented group of players that managed to win the Kingwood Classic three weeks ago, and is one of the pre-tourney favorites along with the Chicago-based Meanstreets to prevail during this weekend's competition. It will get its tourney play underway Saturday at 1 p.m. at Assembly Hall when it faces the D-I Greyhounds at Assembly Hall.
While the ensemble of talent is a big reason for Indiana Elite's success, so is the fact the players have been able to gel and avoid letting egos get in the way of the goal of winning games and tournaments.
"We have some great players on the team, but we also play really well together," Zeller said. "We're always playing as a team, and that helps a ton. To have players with that talent level playing together, that gives us a big advantage."
Among the players Zeller said he's especially enjoyed playing with are Offutt, Jackson and Roth, a trio of guards who provide the sort of balance that gives Zeller and the other big men the room to operate on the interior. Jackson is team's floor general as the point guard, Roth is one of the squad's best perimeter shooters, and Offutt is a combo guard who is also one of the emotional leaders.
"It's fun playing with people who know how to play as a team and are that good," Zeller said. "You don't have selfish players – you're all doing what you do best. Everyone knows their role, what they do well, and they do that when we play. We spread the ball around and do whatever we can to win."
Zeller, Indiana Elite Among AMC Favorites
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