Cody Zeller: ‘I’ve Learned A Lot Playing A Big Role On A Playoff Team’
Scott Ferrall welcomed fellow Indiana alumnus Cody Zeller on his show Monday night to discuss the Charlotte Bobcats (36-38), who are seeded seventh in the East.
“It’s been a lot of fun, especially for my first year,” Zeller said on Ferrall on the Bench. “We’re in the playoff hunt, the season’s gone by fast, but I feel like I’ve learned a lot and playing a big role on a playoff team – I can’t complain. It’s been a lot of fun.”
Zeller scored 15 points – he was 4-of-4 from the floor and 7-of-8 at the foul line – against Washington on Monday. He also had eight rebounds, two assists and one steal in Charlotte’s come-from-behind 100-94 win.
“It was a good win for us,” Zeller said. “The whole team was kind of low on energy to start the game, and that’s always my role – to come in and be an energy guy. So I took it upon myself to bring energy to the court, and the starters took my lead and came out with the win, so it was a big win for us.”
Kemba Walker led Charlotte with 21 points, while Al Jefferson and Chris Douglas-Roberts added 19 and 18 points, respectively.
Charlotte was outscored 40-19 in the second quarter – and trailed 60-44 at halftime – but used a 30-14 fourth-quarter run to win the game.
“It only maters at the end,” Zeller said. “Fourth quarter is a big quarter for us. The crowd was great, and we kind of fed off that. The vets in the locker room kept telling us we’re going to make a run eventually. We picked up the defense, and we did make a run and got the win.”
Jefferson played a game-high 40 minutes against Washington, grabbing 11 rebounds in the process. He’s averaging 21.5 points and 10.4 rebounds per game this season.
“He doesn’t get nearly enough love,” Zeller said. “He’s unbelievable. He’s every night. He’s made such a big impact on this team. The easy offense for us is to just throw it to him and get out of his way.”
If the playoff started today, Charlotte would face Indiana in the second round. The Pacers had a three-game lead over Miami for the No. 1 seed last week, but they went 8-10 in March to fall to No. 2.
Ferrall thinks Charlotte could upset Indiana in the first round should they meet.
“That sounds good to me,” Zeller said. “We’re just worried about playing well going into the playoffs. I think Charlotte is finally coming out. We had a great crowd tonight – one of our best of the year. It’s fun to see the whole city getting behind us.”
Charlotte, a fairly young team, has followed the NCAA Tournament with great interest. Zeller was sad to see his Hoosiers not make the NCAA Tournament, but he felt it was the right choice to not play in any other postseason invitationals.
“It was a tough year for them,” he said, “but I think they’ll be back next year.”
Walker, who led Connecticut to the 2011 national title, and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, who helped Kentucky to the 2012 national title, have been gloating about their collegiate teams, both of which made the Final Four in Dallas this weekend.
“Me and MKG still talk about our college days,” Zeller said, referring to the huge rivalry between Indiana and Kentucky. “We’re over it now, but we’re always kidding each other about our schools. It’s just a little friendly rivalry we got going now.”