Cody Zeller has elected to return to Indiana University for his sophomore season, confirming what many thought the young big would do.
According to Jeff Goodman of CBS Sports, the program announced that the 6’11”, 230-pound center would be staying instead of submitting his name to the NBA draft and joining his brother Tyler, a UNC senior, as a lottery prospect.
Zeller’s teammate and another player on NBA scouts’ radars, Christian Watford, has also reportedly decided to return to Bloomington for what will be his senior year.
Respected analysts and insiders such as Chad Ford had Zeller pegged as a top-10 selection if he decided to declare for the 2012 draft. However, it’s highly doubtful that he would have been able to contribute much as a skinny 19-year-old big man in the league.
By returning to Tom Crean’s IU program, Zeller can continue to add weight and strength to his lengthy frame and get plenty of playing time.
Cody helped lead the Hoosiers to a 27-9 record in 2011-12, which included an incredible regular-season win over the eventual national champion Kentucky Wildcats and a Sweet 16 berth.
He was the Big Ten Freshman of the Year and an honorable mention on the AP All-American list with averages of 15.6 PPG, 6.6 RPG, 1.4 SPG, 1.3 APG and 1.2 BPG in 28.5 minutes of play per game.
Zeller seemed excited to return to the Hoosiers.
“I grew up hoping that one day I would get the opportunity to play in the NBA, but at this point, I’m not ready for my college experience to be over,” said Zeller. “Coach Crean and my family were very supportive and helpful as I made my decision. My college experience at IU this year has exceeded my expectations, on and off the court. I look forward to playing at Assembly Hall next year in front of the greatest fans in the country. Go Hoosiers!”
This decision means that all five Indiana starters are returning to a team that was excellent last season.
If they can make some real noise in the tournament with Zeller leading the charge, he’ll boost his draft stock through the roof.