You can take the man out of Indiana, but you can’t take Indiana out of the man. Cody Zeller’s Charlotte Hornets were in town this week, and I had a chance to talk with the former Hoosier star. We discussed a number of topics, including his support of Riley Hospital, and of course Indiana basketball.
Smith • After all these years, is it still special playing in Indiana?
Zeller • Yeah, it’s always fun coming back here and playing in front of a lot of friends and family. I was also able to catch up with my parents, brother, and a couple other family members. It’s always special.
Smith • I understand you wore a special pair of shoes for this game and are raising money for Riley Hospital. How did that come about?
Zeller • This is a series of five shoes that I’m doing throughout the year to help non profits to help kids. I’ve done a lot of stuff with Riley before and I love what they’re doing over there. I got the idea from the NFL. The NBA has never done anything like it, so I just kind of made it my own. These shoes turned out really well, a little bit of Indiana flavor with me coming back home. A few of the kids from Riley helped design these. I’ll make a donation personally and then hopefully it will also raise awareness for the great work Riley is doing.
Smith • Have you had a chance to watch your Hoosiers much this season? They seem to be improving and are looking good for the tournament.
Zeller • I’ve seen a few games, and I try to follow them as much as I can. Obviously the Penn State win was big. Hopefully they’re on the right side of the bubble now. It’s tough with our schedule, but I try to follow as much as I can.
Smith • Looking back, what was your favorite moment at Indiana?
Zeller • There’s a lot of good moments. My favorite memories are the guys I played with. Vic, Joran Hulls, Christian Watford, Derek Elston, all of those guys. They’re still some of my closest friends now. I had a great two years there. I wouldn’t trade that for anything.
Smith • What are your thoughts on your former teammate, Victor Oladipo, coming back from that injury?
Zeller • It’s cool to see him back. The injury is a tough injury to come back from. I think he’s still getting his rhythm and getting his legs back underneath them. I think they’re still just looking forward to having him healthy and back for the playoffs. He should take all the time he needs, but it’s great to see him back out there. It was good to catch up with him before the game.
Smith • Ever since you went to Indiana, there’s been a wave of NBA talent coming through there. What’s it been like to be part of that?
Zeller • It’s kind of cool to look back and to see how many have come through Bloomington, or even been from Indiana. I think it says a lot about the pride of basketball here in Indiana.
Cody Zeller is in the midst of his best season in the NBA, averaging 11.1 points and 7.1 rebounds per game. He will be a free agent after next season.
If you are interested in joining Zeller to support Riley Children’s Hospital, check out different ways you can give on their website- https://www.rileychildrens.org/about/ways-to-give.
Tyler Smith covers the Indiana Pacers and Indiana Hoosier basketball for Indy Sports Legends. Smith is also the youth pastor at New Hope Christian Church, and the varsity girls’ basketball coach at Crawfordsville High School.