Saying Goodbye To A Tar Heel Legend Tyler Zeller

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North Carolina senior center Tyler Zeller has donned his #44 Carolina jersey for the final time.  It’s not the last time we’ll see the now famous 44 with “Big Z’s” jersey headed to the rafters of the Dean Smith Center.  I will always remember Zeller fondly, the seven foot, lanky center has worked hard to get himself to where he is.  Many times throughout his career he has put team first.  An Academic All-American who understood the importance of the classroom and truly embodied what a student athlete is supposed to be.  In a time when many make a mockery of the phrase, it’s wonderful to see a kid like Zeller show that it is cool to hit the books.

If I had to pick one word to describe him I think the word refreshing fits best.  It was refreshing to see a player so dedicated to his team’s success that he gives up on a year of eligibility to come back at the tail end of his freshman season.  Zeller barely even played during the national championship run in 09.  But he understood that if anything happened to Tyler Hansbrough or any other Carolina big man he might be needed.  His team may need him and he put on his jersey, and thank God he did, he deserves that championship.

It was refreshing not only watching him become an Academic All-American but hearing him say how important it was to him.  He said over and over that he knew it would make his parents proud and that was important to him.  Throughout his entire career he has maintained that he is not counting on playing basketball for the rest of his life.  He was appreciative of being blesses with a scholarship at the University of North Carolina.  This all from a young man who was one of the top recruits of his class and has been a sure fire NBA first round pick for a few years now.  How refreshing.

And how can anyone that even likes the game of basketball not love his skill set?  A seven foot big man that can stick the mid range jumper, shoots close to 80% from the line and runs the floor like a deer?  How many times over his four year career did we watch Z outrun everyone on the court for an easy layup?  Again, refreshing.  Anybody remember how bad he was on defense his freshman year?  I’ll help you, he stunk.  Defense is hard, especially inside when your not fully physically developed yet in terms of upper body strength (I too am lanky can you tell?).  Defense is something you have to want to do.  It takes discipline, smarts, and dedication.  I don’t have to tell any of you reading this how good Tyler Zellers defense has been the last couple years, especially in his senior campaign.

In an age when players shuffle in and out of college looking to get to the NBA as fast as possible.  When most leave with their games still yet to be fully developed and pro teams draft on potential and sneaker companies pay for slam dunks.  When defense is a forgotten art and rebounding is considered “dirty work” instead of an essential part of winning basketball.  It’s great to know we still have some Tyler Zellers left.  It’s even better knowing these are the types of young men coach Roy Williams is recruiting to Carolina to become Tar Heels.

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