Cody Zeller has confidence he can be a perimeter threat as well as a low-post presence for the Charlotte Bobcats.
But he might need a quick refresher course on his jump shot first.
Zeller attempted just two 3-pointers during his two seasons at Indiana, but the No. 4 overall pick in this year’s draft may be asked to knock down jumpers more at the NBA level. Zeller said he’s not worried about that task if the Bobcats decided to use him as a ”stretch 4” player as they’ve indicated.
”It’s not a huge adjustment,” Zeller said at an introductory press conference Friday. ”I shot outside in high school and AAU. In college I didn’t need to as much because we had so many perimeter shooters and didn’t have a post presence other than me. I had to be that guy. I’m a team guy and if that’s what the team needs from me than that’s what I’m going to do.”
The Bobcats seem equally convinced Zeller can handle that role.
The 7-footer impressed new Bobcats coach Steve Clifford during the team’s predraft workouts with his shooting stroke and ability to drain 3-pointers.
At one point during the workout, Clifford said he turned to general manager Rich Cho and said, ”that was eye opening.”
Zeller’s stroke was just one of the little things that convinced the Bobcats to take him, although they’ve been roundly criticized nationally for passing up on Kentucky’s Nerlens Noel, Maryland’s Alex Len and Kansas’ Ben McLemore with the fourth overall pick.
”He’s the best big athlete in the draft and the best big athlete to come out in many years,” Cho said of Zeller.
Indiana Hoosiers coach Tom Crean believes the Bobcats will be thrilled with the pick.
Crean said Zeller is more than capable of being a quality perimeter shooter, pointing to a game last season against Michigan State where he knocked down four jumpers in the 15- to 17-foot range.
”It’s in his skill set,” Crean said during a conference call Friday. ”It’s just a matter of Cody getting comfortable with it.”
But he said Zeller brings so much more to the table.
Crean said Zeller could run the floor just as well as Kentucky’s Anthony Davis two years ago as a freshman and that this past season ”nobody was close to him in terms of running the floor” at the college level.
That suits the Bobcats’ plans well.
”We’re a running basketball team and he fits that,” Bobcats president of basketball operations Rod Higgins said.
Clifford shed more light Friday on how the Bobcats plan to use Zeller, stressing that his size and versatility are his biggest assets. He sees Zeller primarily as a power forward but said he’s too versatile to pigeonhole.
”This league is more about matchups,” Clifford said. ”When he has a less mobile 4 man, we’re going to put him in pick-and-rolls. Against the smaller 4, then he will have the ability to take them inside and score in the post.”
Clifford also likes that Zeller comes in with a working knowledge of defending the pick-and-roll.
Crean is convinced the Bobcats made the right move.
He lauded Zeller’s work ethic and said he’s mentally tougher than any player he’s ever coached.
”That’s definitely one of my strengths — that nothing really fazes me, whether it’s the fans or coaches. I keep it pretty levelheaded,” said Zeller, who was joined at the press conference by brothers Tyler and Luke, who both played in the NBA last season.
Cho realizes that not everyone feels the Bobcats made the right move.
But he believes Zeller was the right pick for the organization and for Clifford’s system.
”People forget he was (projected as) the No. 1 pick in the preseason,” Cho said. ”He’s a versatility pick – inside and outside (scorer). He’s one of the best athletes in this draft. His work ethic is off the charts. He’s a competitor and his character is off the charts.”