Zeller willing, able to stretch his game outside

Zeller willing, able to stretch his game outside
May 21, 2013, 6:45 am
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Indiana Hoosiers forward Cody Zeller (40) takes a shot against Notre Dame Fighting Irish forward Jack Cooley (45) at Conseco Fieldhouse.

(Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports)

Where Cody Zeller lands come the June 27 draft is anyone’s guess, but the post player from Indiana is intriguing enough of a prospect for the Wizards who interviewed him last week at the combine.

Zeller played center for two seasons, but he’ll more than likely shift to power forward in the NBA.  He didn't do any drills with the ball the combine.

Zeller's numbers were impressive in college. He finished with 16.5 points, 8.1 rebounds, 1.3 blocks and shot 56.2% from the field last season.  But he didn't show well in the NCAA tournament, when the long, athletic Syracuse Orange held him to 3-for-10 shooting in a regional semifinal.

Of course in the NBA, Zeller won’t see a 2-3 matchup zone that Syracuse plays from start to finish.

“I thought we had a great year. ... We had high expectations for the season. Obviously, we would've liked to win a national championship. We still won the best conference in the country,” said Zeller of the Big Ten championship. “I thought I had a great year. My numbers went up from my freshman year and I had all the attention with double- and triple-teams. …I improved a lot from my freshman to sophomore year.”

Zeller has the 230-pound frame that eventually could make him a viable option as a full-time center. He’s only 20 and measured at a quarter inch less than 6-11 without shoes.  But his wingspan is the same as his height, which isn't exceptional.

Center prospect Nerlens Noel’s reach is almost 7-4. Small forward prospect C.J. Leslie, who stands 6-7.5, has a wingspan above 7-2.

“I don’t really care about it. I think in high school they measured it wrong and everybody thought I had a 6-8 wingspan,” said Zeller, who also had the Toronto Raptors, Portland Trail Blazers, Houston Rockets and Boston Celtics among his suitors at the combine. “It’s still not good, but it’s better than 6-8.”

Wizards point guard John Wall said when the season ended 29-53 that he would like to have a stretch power forward to run the pick-and-roll. The Wizards finished last in the NBA in scoring at 93.2 points per game.

“I didn't shoot it from outside as much this year but I think I have that ability,” Zeller said. “It’s not a huge adjustment for me. It’s proving what I already know I can do. We had so many different weapons, so many different scorers (Indiana) didn't need me shooting 3s.”