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 â€œIU Media Maniaâ€ event on Oct. 4. Media members are put through the Hoosiersâ€™ pregame conditioning drills by strength coach Jeâ€™Ney Jackson and play a series of games in Assembly Hall.
Kent Taylor: How are you dealing with the added expectations this season?
Â Cody Zeller: There are a lot of people right now telling us how good weâ€™re going to be and stuff, but we donâ€™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 weâ€™re just trying to get better every day.
K.T.: What did the run last year â€“ beating No. 1, No. 2 and No. 5, getting to the NCAA tournament, getting a taste of that â€“ what did that mean for this season?
Â C.Z.: We want more this year. Itâ€™s really driven us throughout the summer. Weâ€™re definitely ready for a fun year.
K.T.: What did you have to improve on over the summer?
Â C.Z.: There are a lot of little things here and there that a lot of the outside doesnâ€™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?
Â 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?
Â 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?
Â C.Z.: Not too much. We want to make a deep run in the tournament, but we donâ€™t have any specific goals, as far as record or anything like that. Weâ€™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 â€œIU Media Mania?â€
Â 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?
Â C.Z.: Some of you looked a little rusty, but thereâ€™s some potential there.
K.T.: Do you go into this season thinking that it will be your last in Bloomington?
C.Z.: Iâ€™m definitely enjoying it, on and off the court. Iâ€™m enjoying it whether Iâ€™m playing basketball or enjoying the Kelly School of Business. Iâ€™m not too worried about how long Iâ€™m going to be here, Iâ€™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 heâ€™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.