It’s off-season in Chapel Hill sports right now. As much as I wish it was March Madness or UNC was getting ready to match up with N.C. State on the gridiron this Sunday, it’s just not happening. So, with that being said, there comes a time where we have to reach every now and then at Keeping It Heel. Case in point: this article.
First: my defense. Both Nerlens Noel and Cody Zeller are well known to the Chapel Hill fan base. Noel teased UNC fans with the thought that he was going to end up in North Carolina and instead ended up in Kentucky. It didn’t work out so well for him. And of course, Cody Zeller is Tyler’s little brother. Tyler Zeller was a strong Tar Heel alum who was drafted year before last by Golden State. UNC fans remember both players well.
Then, of course, you have the Bobcats. Most people in North and South Carolina loved the Charlotte Hornets growing up. They were a team with a lot of flair. Little Muggsy Bogues would take the ball down the court at 5’4’’ tall and toss alley-oops to Alonzo Morning and his signature flat top haircut. Glen Rice was a three-point threat and Larry Johnson, AKA “Grandmama”, was a beast on the block. There were many things to love about the Hornets; from the signature teal uniforms to the high-flying mascot, most people loved that team. Now? Well, now people think the Bobcats are a joke. And they are. But they’re less of a joke.
Here’s why Cody Zeller being picked over Nerlins Noel might not have been a bad move.
1) It’s less of a risk
Noel is a leaper. He just came off of a serious knee surgery that ended his season at UK. His game relies on the ability to out-jump his opponents. You need your knees to do that. Now, doctors have cleared him, but until the true wear and tear of an 82+ game season actually shows up, there is no way to know if he will ever be at the same level he was at, pre-injury.
2) Cody Zeller was pre-season #1 recruit
Zeller returned this year to chase a championship. He was a pre-season #1 player to watch and Indiana was the top-ranked team in the nation during the season. Even though IU didn’t make it to the Final Four, they had a great run. Zeller is a low-key type of personality and so many feel like he didn’t get the media attention a pre-season number one would normally get one. I mean, how boring is a quiet 7-foot Caucasian center playing for a mid-west team like Indiana? Media took their attention elsewhere and I think people forgot how good he truly is.
3) Zeller has a history of doing all the little things right
He’s the third in line from a family of NBA players. He’s 7’2’’ and planning on adding 15 to 20 pounds of size to his somewhat skinny frame. Zeller isn’t a back-you-down-in-the-post kind of player; he’s more of a “stretch 4” type of player that can be leveraged at either center or power forward, depending on where he’s needed. His game matches up well with Charlotte’s new coach’s system: focusing on running. He’s actually really smooth on the block and has above-average ball handling skills, especially when you take into account his size. Zeller can knock down a 15-footer or slam-dunk a rebound over someone. He brings versatility to a Charlotte team that’s looking for quick-tempo and a fast-break offensive style to North Carolina.
I don’t know if I initially agreed with the pick. However, after looking at all the factors, I think this is the safest, most cost-beneficially pick for the up-tempo transition the Bobcats are looking to make. Maybe they won’t let us Carolinians down anymore.