Q+A: Tyler and Cody Zeller
Doin’ big things, in big ways.
And now, Cody:
SLAM: You must’ve liked all the attention at IU you got this season. It’s probably a lot more than you had at Washington HS.
Cody Zeller: Yeah, it’s not too bad. I got a lot in Washington just ’cause it’s a small town, but I guess it’s a good problem to have. Trying to sign all the autographs, take all the pictures—’cause I know that it makes them (the fans) happy.
SLAM: Your freshman season at Washington, you were the sixth man and Tyler was a senior. You guys won the state championship that year.
CZ: Yeah. I started a few games, but otherwise I played if Tyler, or, we had another big guy that was like, 6-10; I played if they needed a rest or got in foul trouble or something. I was only 6-5 at the time, 155 pounds my freshman year.
SLAM: You were a guard, and then you made a transition to the paint with your growth spurt.
CZ: Right—I was a point guard on my junior high team and then I kind of played guard my freshman year of high school. Being 6-8 as a sophomore allowed me to start playing inside more.
SLAM: Your senior year you were salutatorian. Second in your class academically. Tyler was third in his class, correct?
CZ: Yeah I was second, Tyler was third, and Luke was first in his class.
SLAM: You must be pretty proud of Tyler for becoming the first UNC basketball player to get Academic All-American twice. That’s a big accomplishment.
CZ: Oh, really? That’s pretty neat!
SLAM: Yeah I wonder if finishing third, knowing you and Luke finished first and second, gave him any motivation in that regard.
CZ: [Laughs] We’re all pretty motivated in school as well as basketball, so, yeah, that’s pretty neat.
SLAM: So you recently chose to stay at Indiana for your sophomore year. How was making that announcement? Was that a no-brainer?
CZ: It was always a tough decision. It’s a lot of money, but I think the deciding factor was just that I’m not ready to, ya know, grow up and get a job and start a living in the real world I guess. I’m definitely enjoying myself here at IU.
SLAM: Sometimes players jump the gun on that decision. For most people, college is the best time of their lives.
CZ: That’s what I’ve heard from so many people so I kind of want to experience that.
SLAM: Have you chosen a major yet? I know it’s still early.
CZ: I’m in the Kelley School of Business, but I haven’t decided specifically—probably entrepreneurship or management.
SLAM: What have you enjoyed the most about IU? Aside from filling up Assembly Hall, I know IU has a great little golf course—have you had time to hit the links yet? What kind of stuff have you been doing on the side?
CZ: I’m not too much of a golfer, but it is fun just to be around campus. It’s a beautiful campus. Just going to classes and all the professors are real great—especially when we had to miss classes for the Tournament. Stuff like that. I think everyone here at IU just makes it a fun experience.
SLAM: As far as your older brothers go, obviously competing with them growing up made you who you are today, but watching Luke stay closer to home and going to Notre Dame, and then Tyler going a little further away to North Carolina—how did that play into you deciding to stay home close, and go to Indiana?
CZ: I don’t think the location was a huge deal. The situations were a lot different when Luke, Tyler and I were going through our recruiting processes. As far as the coaching changes, the players are obviously different. IU had just built the new practice facility (Cook Hall) when they were recruiting me. Different stuff like that. A lot of things changed and I don’t think location was a huge part of any of our decisions.
SLAM: You must be enjoying the revival of IU basketball. Did your team expect to beat Kentucky when they were the 1-seed, and to beat a very good Michigan State team during the regular season?
CZ: Somewhat. I knew that last summer when I was here at IU working out that everyone was working hard and I thought we had a pretty good team, but I really didn’t have anything to compare it to as it was my first summer here. As the season got going I think we kind of realized how good of a year we could have. It was neat to see how much everyone improved during the season.
SLAM: Speaking of working in the summer, I was wondering if you could talk a bit about your brother Luke’s nonprofit, DistinXion.
CZ: They have a website, DistinXion.org, that you can get on and read some more about it, but, he started it a few years ago. They do Christian basketball camps in the summer. Probably 10 of ’em across the state of Indiana. The draw is basketball, obviously, and they teach a lot of values—family values, they do a neat table manners kit. The draw is basketball, but they include a lot of other useful things. It’s pretty neat.
SLAM: Have you been a counselor there before? Do you plan to this summer? Do you have time for that?
CZ: Yeah. Like I said there were about 10 camps last summer. I made it to about half of them.
CZ: Yeah, hopefully I can do that again this year. The numbers have almost doubled I think already this year for registration.
SLAM: I’m sure Luke going as hard as he did on you and Tyler all those years, you guys turning into the household names you are now, definitely was a good investment, some good press for his camp. Funny how that worked out.
SLAM: Staying on the topic of family, I gotta ask you about the eating competitions you had with your brothers when you guys were growing up. The pancake stacking competitions, pizza competitions—who won the most?
CZ: I think Luke used to win them all ’cause he was bigger. We’re so competitive in everything we do so like you said, whether it was pizza eating, basketball, school, all three of us were always so competitive. It’s kind of neat when all three of us ever get together we just come up with crazy competitions and go at it. It’s pretty fun.
SLAM: Did you ever dream that all three of you guys would be where you are today? Talking to SLAM Magazine, your brother, Tyler, chilling on Sports Nation last Monday to announce his new twitter handle. Did you ever imagine that could happen? How does this all compare to your dreams as a kid?
CZ: Not really I mean, it’s pretty neat now, but I don’t know if we ever expected to have all this.
SLAM: On the night of the National Championship game, about 10 minutes before tip-off, a tweet from @czeller40 pops up that says, “Not much on TV tonight. American Pickers is always a good option though.”
CZ: [Laughs] Yeah.
SLAM: How mad does it make you to know that all those NBA Draft-declared UK guys won’t be around for the rematch next season? Or, is it more about playing for the school, and not the players? And, did you actually watch American Pickers instead of the game that night?
CZ: I didn’t watch much of the game. It just made me upset ’cause I think we had the best shot of beating them. I thought we matched up with them pretty well and I think all of us, all the guys on the team, kind of went into that last game expecting to win. And just watching the other teams play—I don’t think they had as good of a shot as we did to beat them.
SLAM: That IU vs UK matchup made for some incredible games this past season for sure. Moving on, I was hoping you could talk a bit about how religion has played a part in your success. Your twitter picture is of a cross. Religion is important to a lot of people—I think they’d love to hear about how it’s had a positive effect on your career so far.
CZ: It’s definitely important to our whole family. Just growing up in a Christian background with our parents, ya know, distilling that into us at a young age. I think that religion is a big reason why all three of us are so humble and are always working as hard as we can. All three of us are playing for the Lord and all the recognition that we get we kind of bounce it off of us and give it to the Lord.
SLAM: So, last question, before you go, I know you’ve got a busy Friday night scheduled over there on campus. I caught the announcement/Kate Upton tweet, where you said, “I’m returning to IU next year because I haven’t accomplished all of my goals. For example I haven’t gotten a date with @KateUpton yet.” Did she respond, what’s up with that?
CZ: Nahh, she didn’t’ respond. Somebody said there’s another Kate Upton that goes to IU, so it started a bunch of rumors around school. I think Kate (the supermodel) took classes here before, but I don’t think she has in a while.