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Indiana sophomore Cody Zeller heads to NBA

Indianmen's basketball coach Tom Crean speaks as forward Cody Zeller listens during news conference where Zeller said he will enter

Indiana men's basketball coach Tom Crean speaks as forward Cody Zeller listens during a news conference where Zeller said he will enter the NBA draft, at Assembly Hall in Bloomington, Ind., Wednesday, April 10, 2013. (AP Photo/The Herald-Times, Chris Howell)

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Updated: May 12, 2013 2:15PM



BLOOMINGTON — Cody Zeller put off his NBA dream for a year in hopes of winning a national title at Indiana.

But with some of his closest friends on the team graduating or leaving early, Zeller decided it was time to go pro.

“The last two years have been probably the best two years of my life,” Zeller said Wednesday. “It’s been a great two years but at this point in my life, I think it’s best for me to pursue my dream of playing in the NBA.”

Zeller said he made the decision to stay at IU last year because of the team’s prospects of winning a championship.

“That’s always the goal. We had a great team this year, with a lot of depth, a lot of great players,” he said.

“Unfortunately we couldn’t make that happen but we definitely had a successful year with how many wins we had, the Big Ten championship.”

And with Jordan Hulls and Christian Watford graduating and Victor Oladipo also choosing to go pro, Zeller felt the time was right to move on.

He said his teammates weren’t surprised.

“I think those guys kind of expected it,” he said. “A lot of my teammates told me to go to the NBA because if they had the opportunity that I have, I think they would do the same thing. They’re behind me all the way.”

Zeller’s presence made an immediate impact on IU’s basketball fortunes. The year before he arrived in Bloomington, the Hoosiers were 12-20. With Zeller on the roster, IU went 27-9 and 29-7 over the past two seasons, reaching the NCAA tournament’s Sweet 16 both times.

The preseason national player of the year, Zeller ended the season as a second-team Associated Press All-American and a first-team All-Big Ten pick. He led IU in scoring and rebounding in each of his two seasons.

That leaves a big hole for IU to fill. Sophomores-to-be Hanner Mosquera-Perea and Peter Jurkin didn’t show much offensively in limited time this season, putting pressure on incoming freshman Luke Fischer to battle immediately for the center spot.

In all likelihood, the offense will rely more on guards Will Sheehey and Remy Abell to be primary scoring options next season.

Indiana coach Tom Crean said it was too soon to decide who takes what role for next season’s Hoosiers.

“We’re so focused on the three parts of helping (the departing players) get to where they need to go, making the team better that’s here, and getting ready for the new guys,” Crean said, noting that the incoming freshmen were recruited — and oversigned — because he was preparing for the likelihood of the early departures of Oladipo and Zeller.

“You have a responsibility to (the players), no doubt, but you also have a responsibility to your program,” Crean said.



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