In the ramp up to the 2011-12 basketball season, Tar Heel Fan will be profiling key Tar Heels who will likely be major contributors this season. Today’s profile looks at forward Tyler Zeller.
Weight: 250 lbs
2010-11 Stats: 34 gms, 15.7 ppg, 7.2 rpg, 54.7 FG%, 76.3 FT%
Career Stats: 79 gms, 11.1 ppg, 5.3 rpg, 52.4 FG%, 74.9 FT%
What Happened Last Season
Zeller had an injury-free season for the first time in a UNC uniform and responded by being Carolina's leading scorer and second-leading rebounder, as well as the team's best free throw shooter. Zeller was rock-solid throughout the season and when Harrison Barnes was going 2-12 from the floor or John Henson was an offensive liability, Zeller could be counted on to deliver. He saved his best work for the NCAA tournament when he averaged nearly 26 points and 9 rebounds per game in UNC's Elite Eight run.
Outlook For This Season
Zeller is sort of the Rodney Dangerfield of UNC's returning stars in that he doesn't seem to get the respect or hype that follows the dazzling Harrison Barnes, the freakishly athletic John Henson, or the amazing Kendall Marshall. He was named pre-season all-ACC but behind Barnes and Henson. It's almost like people say "hey, this is the best, most consistent player on one of the best teams in the country - guess we better vote him on something."
For this season, it should be more of the same in terms of what we saw from Zeller last year. Zeller moves like a gazelle to be 7 feet tall, and he is strong and athletic and has shooting range out to 18-20 feet. He may not make the eye-popping plays of Barnes, Henson, or Marshall, but he should remain the focus of UNC's half-court offense.
The primary concern is the same as it has been for four years with Zeller - staying healthy. Last year's injury-free season should ease any concerns about his durability, and he has shown he is as good as any big man in the country when healthy.
16.0 ppg, 7.5 rpg, 32 min/game, 55% FG, 75% FT
These are essentially the same numbers he posted last season, which was successful by any measure. Zeller will be a major contributor on both ends of the floor as UNC hopes to make another run to New Orleans. And of course, the ultimate wish is for Zeller to join Justin Watts as the only Tar Heel players to own two championship rings.