Indiana sophomore center Cody Zeller is the pick by many as the preseason National Player of the Year in college basketball. Zeller averaged 15.6 points and 6.6 rebounds a game as a freshman. The Hoosiers finished the 2011-12 season 27-9, losing to eventual National Champion Kentucky in the Sweet 16, and also the preseason No. 1 team in many publications.
Cody coached my team in the third annual “IU Media Mania” event on Oct. 4. Media members are put through the Hoosiers’ pregame conditioning drills by strength coach Je’Ney Jackson and play a series of games in Assembly Hall.
Kent Taylor: How are you dealing with the added expectations this season?
Cody Zeller: There are a lot of people right now telling us how good we’re going to be and stuff, but we don’t worry about that too much. We have a lot to improve on. We know that the season can be good for us, but we have a lot to improve on and we’re just trying to get better every day.
K.T.: What did the run last year – beating No. 1, No. 2 and No. 5, getting to the NCAA tournament, getting a taste of that – what did that mean for this season?
C.Z.: We want more this year. It’s really driven us throughout the summer. We’re definitely ready for a fun year.
K.T.: What did you have to improve on over the summer?
C.Z.: There are a lot of little things here and there that a lot of the outside doesn’t realize that goes on. A lot of little things that make a big difference, and the summer is great for that.
K.T.: Was getting stronger your main focus in the offseason?
C.Z.: A big part of it (was) putting on weight and strength, but a lot of little things here and there. Working more on the perimeter, and I know that a lot of teams are going to double team me, so I know that I had to improve on a lot of things to at least make it tough on them.
K.T.: How much of a difference did it make for the coaches to be able to work with you in the summer?
C.Z.: It does definitely help, especially the freshmen. They can come in and get a feel for what the workouts are like. Even though it was only two hours a week that the coaches could work with us, I think it was a big difference and I think it will help us a lot.
K.T.: Are there spoken goals for this season?
C.Z.: Not too much. We want to make a deep run in the tournament, but we don’t have any specific goals, as far as record or anything like that. We’re just taking it one day at a time and see where it takes us.
K.T.: How much fun did you have interacting with the media during “IU Media Mania?”
C.Z.: It is fun, we only see you guys behind the camera. It was nice to see what kinds of skills you guys actually have. I think it was fun for you guys too, to see kind of what we go through on a normal day, as far as the warm-up and everything else that we go through.
K.T.: As a rule, were media members better or worse than you thought we would be?
C.Z.: Some of you looked a little rusty, but there’s some potential there.
K.T.: Do you go into this season thinking that it will be your last in Bloomington?
C.Z.: I’m definitely enjoying it, on and off the court. I’m enjoying it whether I’m playing basketball or enjoying the Kelly School of Business. I’m not too worried about how long I’m going to be here, I’m just enjoying the time that I am here.
K.T.: How much more of a role will Remy Abell (from Eastern High in Louisville) play this year?
C.Z.: I think he’s going to surprise some people. He definitely had a big role in a few games last year, the VCU game, the game at Purdue, he played really well. I think that experience last year is going to help him a lot this year.
Kent Taylor is a sports anchor for WAVE 3. See more of his work at www.wave3.com or by tuning in to the NBC affiliate.