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Indiana University

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Hoosiers’ top players coming back next season

Zeller
Watford

Indiana picked up two more postseason wins Tuesday.

Forwards Cody Zeller and Christian Watford will remain with the Hoosiers for next season, the two announced through a statement from the university.

“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,” Zeller said.

Speculation grew following the season whether Zeller and Watford would return or take a shot at the NBA. The news means all five of Indiana’s starters from the recent Sweet 16 run will be back.

It will also likely lead to a top 5 ranking when the Associated Press preseason rankings come out next fall. Several websites had IU at No. 1 for next season in rankings released immediately after the NCAA tournament.

“I’m looking forward to the opportunity to complete my degree and to continue restoring the winning tradition at IU,” Watford said in the statement.

Zeller led the team in scoring (15.6) and rebounding (6.6) on the way to being named the Big Ten Freshman of the Year by the league coaches.

“Cody is player who, along with his unique skill set, makes everyone around him better,” IU coach Tom Crean said in a statement. “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.”

Zeller was an honorable mention Associated Press All-American. He was fourth in the nation in shooting percentage (62.3 percent).

“Coach Crean and my family were very supportive and helpful as I made my decision,” Zeller said. “My college experience at IU this year has exceeded my expectations, on and off the court.”

Watford was second on the team in scoring (12.6) and rebounding (5.8) as a junior. He made the NCAA South region all-tournament team.

“I believe in coach Crean and our staff and I am eager to lead my new teammates and build on what we started,” Watford said.

Watford had a season-high 27 points in the Sweet 16 loss to Kentucky. He reached double figures in scoring 26 times this past season, including eight straight to end the year.

“Christian really ended the season on a high note on the biggest stage and is building off that,” Crean said. “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.”

Jordan Hulls, Will Sheehey and Victor Oladipo are the other returning starters from a team that went 27-9 and advanced to the regional semifinals for the first time since 2002. Additionally, IU adds a recruiting class ranked No. 2 in the country by Rivals.com and Scout.com.

lpope@jg.net

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