Plenty of mock drafts projected Cody Zeller being selected in the lower half of the top 10 in Thursday’s NBA Draft.
But Tom Crean wasn’t surprised when Zeller was drafted by the Charlotte Bobcats at No. 4.
“He had too many great workouts. He was on the first line of too many top five programs,” Crean said during a conference call Friday.
Zeller and Victor Oladipo (No. 2 overall, to Orlando) became the first IU teammates to be picked in the top 5 of the NBA Draft.
“Charlotte and Orlando, when you look back at it, did a great job of coming in here in the year and spending extra time [watching the Hoosiers],” Crean said.
Some of the questions about Zeller stemmed from concerns about how his skill set would translate to the NBA. Crean, for one, is not concerned.
“I think the upside of his skill level is just going to continue to grow because he’s such an athlete, and his athleticism shows in so many ways,” Crean said. “He’s as prepared as any big man I watched in college this year, a big player to come in and defend pick and roll basketball, to come in and defend on the side, to play the post.
“I think when he gets comfortable … he’s going to be a multidimensional player because he can drive it, he can shoot it, he can score it in the post.”
The Bobcats talked Thursday night about using Zeller as a "stretch" power forward, a position he might have played at Indiana had it not been for Christian Watford.
While Zeller had the freedom in IU’s offense to play away from the basket, he wanted to drive the ball, Crean said.
“When you’ve got a guy that can get to the foul line like he does and (make free throws), you want to make sure that he’s getting as many opportunities as possible for that.”
Both Hoosiers will be going to teams that have had little success. Orlando had the NBA’s worst record last season at 20-62, while Charlotte was 21-61.
But given what Crean saw from the two at IU, he’s not worried about how they’ll help in improving those teams’ records.
“They’ll go in and blend [as teammates], but they’ll also go in and they won’t be afraid to compete,” Crean said. “They won’t be afraid to do their best.
“I don’t think they need to make a lot of changes in how they act and operate when it comes to being members of a team, because they’ve proven it works here.”
Both players said Thursday night that they intend to keep up the work ethic that enabled them to lead IU to 56 combined wins over the last two seasons.
“I’m not worried about the title of franchise guy or anything,” Zeller said. “I’m going to come in and try to be the hardest-working guy. Hopefully the other guys there will follow my lead, or I’ll join them if it’s a good group of hard-working guys, then the team is going to start winning.”
“I’m not trying to come in and do everything and try to outshine everybody,” Oladipo said. “I’m going to come in and work hard.”
Watford was hoping to get drafted but didn’t. Reports on Friday said that Watford would play for the Pacers’ and Mavericks’ summer league teams. Indiana will play in the Orlando summer league, July 7-12, while Dallas plays in the Las Vegas summer league from July 12-22.