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Sunday, April 21
The Indiana Daily Student

sports men's basketball

Forwards Zeller, Watford announce 2012-13 IU return

Let the hype begin.

IU men’s basketball forwards Christian Watford and Cody Zeller announced that they will return to school next season and put their NBA dreams on hold. The two were IU’s leading scorers and rebounders in the 2011-12 season.

Zeller, who was IU’s leading scorer as a freshman this season, was projected as a lottery pick in the upcoming NBA Draft. But Zeller said he wasn’t quite ready to leave Bloomington.

“I grew up hoping that one day I would get the opportunity to play in the NBA, but at this point, I’m not ready for my college experience to be over,” he said in a release. “Coach (Tom) Crean and my family were very supportive and helpful as I made my decision. My college experience at IU this year has exceeded my expectations, on and off the court.”

On the court, Zeller helped lead IU to its first Sweet 16 since the National Championship runner-up season of 2001-02. The forward was named Co-Big Ten Freshman of the Year and honorable mention AP All-American.

Crean said the sky is the limit for Zeller.

“Cody is a player who, along with his unique skillset, makes everyone around him better,” Crean said in a release. “He is going to have great opportunities ahead of him, yet his demeanor, work ethic and his desire to be a great teammate never wavers. He will have the opportunity to be as good as any player in college basketball.”

While Zeller still has three years of eligibility, Watford is returning for his final season. The junior forward was not projected to be selected in the lottery like Zeller, but Watford made a similar mark for IU in the postseason.

Watford led IU, averaging 17.6 points in the five postseason games, including a season-high 27 points in the 102-90 loss to eventual National Champion Kentucky in the Sweet 16.

“Christian really ended the season on a high note on the biggest stage and is building off that,” Crean said in a release. “He is going to have the opportunity to be a leader and have an even greater impact on the program and his game, but more importantly, he will earn his degree from IU.”

Not only are Watford’s 1,287 career points the most of any returning player on IU, they are the most of any returning player in the Big Ten.
 
Watford and Zeller’s return means IU will bring back all five starters from the 2011-12 to go along with Rivals.com’s No. 2-ranked 2012 recruiting class. Before Watford and Zeller even announced they were coming back, Yahoo, CNNSI.com, NBC Sports, ESPN.com and USA Today all slated IU as their preseason No. 1.

“I’m looking forward to the opportunity to complete my degree and to continue restoring the winning tradition at IU,” Watford said in a release. “I believe in Coach Crean and our staff, and I am eager to lead my new teammates and build on what we started.”

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