CHICAGO – They brought out the tape measures, stopwatches and calipers for Cody Zeller on Friday at the NBA Draft Combine. The NBA gave the former Indiana All-American jump ropes and made him leap, slide, sprint, shuffle and talk – again – and not only did the 2011 Indiana Mr. Basketball pass the tests, he flourished to an astounding degree.
“I was a little disappointed,” Zeller said after the tests.
He was “disappointed” after finishing with the best standing vertical jump (35½ inches) of the 60 participants. Not first among the centers, but first first, as in better than those athletic small forwards and shooting guards.
Among the centers, Zeller also registered the best scores in agility drills and sprinting ability. How fast was he? He outran Hoosier teammate Victor Oladipo, regarded as one of the best athletes in college basketball, by a wide margin (.1 seconds in a three-quarter-court sprint).
“It's fun to showcase some of this stuff because you can't see that necessarily on the basketball court as you can before (today),” Zeller said.
Entering the Combine, no critic had any ammunition for Zeller off of the court. He's lived an incredibly public life since early in his high school years, and the best thing that you can say about the guy after all of these years is that he has proven to be quite boring.
Zeller's been “the big man on campus” in Bloomington since day one, yet even with the 24-hour transparency of social media, there was never a moment of “college regret” caught on an iPhone and posted for all to observe and heckle Zeller for.
What could fans hold up on signs while he was at the free throw line? “Your brothers are better?”
No they actually aren't. They're good, but as older brother, Tyler, said a year ago, Cody not entering the 2012 NBA Draft moved him up a spot (he was selected 17th by Dallas and later traded to Cleveland).
“I never saw any of that money,” Cody laughed.
After Friday's performance, there shouldn't be very many questions about his on-the-court abilities, either.
Zeller had his supporters as to which player was the best center in college basketball this past season. But there was also no shortage of people who didn't think he was even the best big man from his own state (see Duke star and Warsaw native Mason Plumlee). The criticism grew louder after the Hoosiers' Sweet 16 defeat to Syracuse.
Can Zeller score against players of length?
Can he physically hold his own in the NBA?
Can he shoot the basketball?
Yes, yes, and yes are the answers, and if any NBA team doesn't concur, then just wait and they'll see.
They'll see because of what wasn't measured at the Combine, and those are the traits of maturity, intelligence, determination, competitiveness and work ethic. Each of those traits is needed in abundance in order to achieve what Zeller did: He was the only player in college basketball this past season to be both a first team All-American and a first team Academic All-American.
Zeller isn't a finished product by any means. Heck, the guy is only two seasons removed from playing against Boonville and Loogootee. However, the areas of his game that need to keep developing – strength, shooting, etc. – will do so because Zeller will diligently work to ensure it.
He'll no doubt struggle initially against older, stronger NBA players, as almost every young player does. However, there won't be a day where he fails to do what is necessary to be the best that he can be.
Questions about Zeller will continue to arise leading up to next month's draft. Nonbelievers always need something to cling to when desperate. But just as he always has, and certainly as he did on Friday, Zeller will measure up to any test.
Here is a look at how Cody Zeller measured at the 2013 NBA Draft Combine.
Height (without shoes) - 6-feet-10 3/4 inches
Height (with shoes) - 7-feet 1/4 inch
Weight - 230 pounds
Wingspan - 6-feet-10 3/4 inches
Standing reach - 8-feet-10 inches
Body fat percentage - 4.75 percent
Hand length - 8 1/2 inches
Hand width - 10 1/2 inches
Standing vertical leap - 35 1/2 inches (best of any player at Combine)
Maximum vertical leap (with three steps) - 37 1/2 inches
Lane agility drill - 10.82 seconds (tied Detroit guard Ray McCallum and was best among centers)
Modified lane agility drill (three defensive lane slides) - 2.69 seconds (best among any player at Combine)
3/4 court sprint - 3.15 seconds (best among centers)