THE ZELLER THREE: ARE THEY THE GREATEST HOOPS FAMILY EVER?

THE GOLDEN VOICE WITH CHRIS LOWRY

Zeller. It’s a household name in the Hoosier state. In fact, it’s probably been that way since at least 2005 when Luke Zeller hit a half court shot at the buzzer to give the Washington Hatchets the IHSAA Class 3A state basketball title (www.youtube.com/watch?v=7N-qQfgn9MA).

Zeller is not just a household name in Indiana anymore, however. It has become a name of national prominence and, dare I say, soon to be unprecedented historical significance. I am calling the Zellers the greatest sibling triumvirate in the history of basketball.

Let me explain.

Let’s look into the future before tracing our way back through the not-so-distant past.  Starting in 2013, Luke, Tyler, and Cody Zeller could very well become only the 3rd set of siblings to play in the NBA at the same time and only the fourth trio of brothers to do so in league history. Frank, Campy, and Walker Russell were brothers who all played in the NBA during the ‘70’s and/or 80’s, though not all at the same time. The Jones family actually had four brothers see league action as Wil, Major, Charles, and Caldwell all made the pros, though only the latter three were ever in the league at the same time.  Arguably the most well-known siblings to ever grace the NBA were the Barry Brothers.  Jon, Brent, and Drew all played in the league together from 1998-2000.

Nbadraft.net currently has Indiana University Center Cody Zeller as the No. 1 projected pick in next year’s NBA draft. Cody is the consensus NCAA pre-season player of the year candidate and, assuming he leaves school early after this season, is a virtual lock to be selected within the top 10 picks of the draft. This year, North Carolina center and second team All-American Tyler Zeller was picked 17th overall by the Dallas Mavericks and, after a draft night trade, will be hooping it up with the Cleveland Cavaliers for his rookie season. The eldest brother, Luke, was not originally drafted into the NBA after playing four years at Notre Dame but will be making his NBA rookie debut tomorrow night on Halloween as a member of the Phoenix Suns. Assuming Luke can maintain his roster spot, next year the Association will likely see only the third set of three siblings to ever play in the league at the same time.

But what sets apart the Zellers from the Barry’s and the Jones’ as the greatest sibling triumvirate to ever grace the game? Try this: A combined six state championships, three Indiana Mr. Basketball awards, and three McDonald’s All-American Game selections.  That’s not a misprint. Washington High School won state in 2005 (with Luke and Tyler), in 2008 (with Tyler and Cody), in 2010 (with Cody) and in 2011 (with Cody). All three won Mr. Basketball and were All-Americans their senior seasons (Luke in ’05, Tyler in ’08, and Cody in ’11). That is almost mind-boggling. And those statistics are not anything that the Jones’ or Barry’s can come close to touching.

As if the Zeller fellers’ athletic accomplishments were not enough, from all accounts the siblings possess the character to match their sports achievements. The entire family works for Distinxion, a program started by Luke.  According to its Mission and Vision Statements, “DistinXion will provide positive role models and a positive learning environment for youth to learn life values and character through elite basketball and cheerleading training” and also aims “to positively influence the way youth think and act, so that when they become adults they are responsible contributors to society.”

I’ve had the opportunity to call a handful of radio broadcasts for Cody while he was in high school and witness first-hand part of his character as well. Despite physical punishment on the court as opposing teams would try anything to slow the high school standout, Cody’s demeanor would never change as he refused to retaliate. His interaction with fans both before and after games was also done politely and professionally despite being under 18 years of age. Observing parents Steve and Lorri serving in the concession area before Hatchet games, one would never have guessed that at the time that they had one son playing professionally overseas, another starring for a major NCAA powerhouse, and a third who was one of the hottest recruiting targets in the entire country. I think it is safe to say that this is a basketball family unlike any other.

Forget about keeping up with the Jones’; just try keeping up with the Zeller’s.

(Chris Lowry is the radio voice of the Kokomo Wildkats and Howard County athletics on 1350 WIOU-AM. He contributes a monthly column to the Sports Journal.)

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