After several outstanding efforts with Indiana Elite at various tournaments and a strong showing at last week’s NBPA Top 100 camp, Tyler Zeller has emerged as a legitimate McDonald’s All-American candidate. According to the skilled big man, it was a mixture of maturity and hard work that helped him take his game to the next level.
“A little bit of it is maturity and a little bit of extra work,” said Zeller. “I kind of realized that I wasn’t where I wanted to be so I started working a bit harder.”
Because of his long and slender build, Zeller understands that some will question his ability to bang in the post. However, he more than makes up for any lack of bulk with his fluid running and ability to drain jumpers with consistency all the way out to 17 feet.
“My biggest strength would be either running the floor or just trying to outplay my opponents,” says Zeller. “My weaknesses, there’s a lot of stuff really. You just have to keep working on your all around game to make everything a strength. There’s never any part of your game that can’t be improved.”
For now, Zeller says he’s sitting on a list of nine schools that includes Indiana, Iowa, Iowa State, Kansas, Kentucky, North Carolina, Notre Dame, Purdue, and Tennessee. He’s already managed to visit all but Tennessee unofficially and says that the unofficial visits help a lot.
“It helps a lot, you get to go see for yourself,” Zeller told Phog.Net. “Coaches can tell you whatever they want and if you don’t go there to visit you never know if it’s true. After going there you can get a feel for their facilities and players and see if they are telling you the truth.”
While some of the schools on his list (Indiana, Purdue, Iowa, Iowa State) stepped up with offers earlier than others, he’s now got scholarship offers from all of the schools on his list, Kansas included.
“I had talked to Kansas and visited for Late Night but they hadn’t offered,” said Zeller. “So an offer from them was new this spring.”
Given that some schools were sold on him earlier than others, it wouldn’t be a surprise if Zeller felt some extra loyalty to them. While he says that he doesn’t really care when any offer came, he does admit that he does know some coaching staffs better than others.
“It (offering early) matters a little. You definitely know the coaches a lot better and the way they are,” said Zeller. “The coaches that just got on the list, I’ve kind of talked to. Like North Carolina and Kansas they’ve got to kind of catch up. I’ve got to feel like I trust them as much as I do the others.”
With a busy July looming, Zeller plans to play out the month and after that he’ll sit down and cut his list. He’d like to cut it down to five schools or less and then set up his official visits before signing in November. From the sounds of it, how well he fits in with the players at each school is going to be very important.
“Players you can get along with are a big thing. If you can’t get along with the players you aren’t going to want to be there,” said Zeller. “That’s on and off the court. You are going to want to be able to hang out with them because you are going to be around them a lot more than most other people you know.”