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Zeller equipped to handle high expectations at Indiana


Few freshmen will enter the 2011-12 season with higher expectations surrounding them than Cody Zeller. Not simply because the 6-10, 210-pound forward has skills, but because he’s an Indiana kid who happens to be the Hoosiers’ highest-profile recruit in years.

Hey, he might just be the savior.

Indiana is ready to avoid another season in the Big Ten cellar. The hoops-proud program is still rebuilding under Tom Crean, but next season offers the first glimmer of hope when Zeller arrives on campus. He’s the prize of Crean’s 2011 class before the loaded 2012 group arrives. Zeller won’t have to do it alone, but he’s the local kid. He’s the Indiana high school star.

He’ll be the one everyone expects to shine. But, as Bob Kravitz writes in the Indianapolis Star, Zeller should be able to handle it:

“I try not to listen to any of it,’' he said evenly. “No one in my inner circle, no one on campus, is putting too much pressure on me. Just outside fans, and they aren’t coaching me or helping me with my jump shot.’'

If anybody is prepared, physically and emotionally, to put a program on his back and bring it back to life in the next few years, it’s Zeller. Not solely because of his talent; he’s not a one-and-done guy, and chances are his Indiana All-Star teammate, Kentucky-bound guard Marquis Teague, will spend less time in college than Zeller. But the Washington High School graduate’s sense of humor, his goofy sense of self-awareness, suggest a rare sort of maturity.

How does Kravitz know about Zeller’s rare sort of maturity? By his Twitter feed.

Like any Twitter feed, it’s filled with nonsense, but Kravitz is convinced is good nonsense. Zeller doesn’t take himself too seriously, knows how to relax and does his best to stay grounded. Kravitz likens him to Butler’s Matt Howard.

That’s some high praise. If Zeller matches what Howard did at Butler – two Final Fours, a conference player of the year award – he’ll actually be close to being that savior.

You also can follow me on Twitter @MikeMillerNBC.