Luke Zeller Rooting for Two No. 1 Teams to Win Titles
NEW YORK — Luke Zeller is rooting for two different No. 1 teams to win national championships in the coming months.
The 6-foot-11 Phoenix Suns rookie attended Notre Dame, which will play Alabama in football for the BCS national championship on Jan. 7.
He is also the older brother of Indiana sophomore Cody Zeller, who plays for the No. 1-ranked basketball team in the nation.
Before the Suns met the Knicks on Sunday at Madison Square Garden, Zeller said he was happy that Alabama beat Georgia, 32-28, in the SEC championship game Saturday night.
That sets up a highly anticipated Alabama-Notre Dame game. Notre Dame has beaten Alabama in five of six meetings since 1973, but the Crimson Tide have already been installed as a 7-to-10 point favorite.
“I think Alabama is one of the best teams in the country, and if you’re going to win it, you want to win it beating the best team in the country,” he said. “So I’m glad Alabama won.”
The Notre Dame basketball team plays at Cincinnati Jan. 7 and head coach Mike Brey joked on ESPN that he might get thrown out of that game at halftime and wind up in an Irish bar in Cincinnati watching the football game.
“I don’t know where he’s going to go in Cincinnati that they’ll want him to be there,” Luke Zeller joked. “He’s got to find some Notre Dame fans.”
On the basketball front, Luke said his younger brother is more concerned with being ranked No. 1 at the end of the season than before or during it — and that coach Tom Crean has worked the team hard early, having practices during fall break.
“I think he’s got just as high, if not, higher expectations of himself,” Luke said of his brother. “He does a great job of letting the game come to him, rather than forcing it.
“But at the same time he wants to win and he wants to compete and when he’s not able to do that he’s the first guy in the gym the next day trying to fix whatever he needs to fix.”
Cody Zeller is averaging 15 points and 7.6 rebounds for the undefeated Hoosiers (8-0), despite battling asthmatic bronchitis for several games earlier this season.
“He got real sick for two or three games,” Luke said. “He had a couple tough games but he turned it around when they played [North] Carolina.”
Zeller is projected by many NBA scouts as the No. 1 pick in the 2013 NBA Draft, but Luke said his brother is not even thinking about that now.
“There are so many elements, where teams finish, how you finish, so many things you can’t control that it’s not worth it,” he said.
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Adam Zagoria is a New York Times contributor and Basketball Insider who covers basketball at all levels. He is the author of two books and is an award-winning journalist whose articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Sports Illustrated, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide.
A veteran Ultimate Frisbee player, he has competed in numerous National and World Championships and, perhaps more importantly, his teams won the Westchester Summer League (WSL) championships in 2011 and 2013.
He lives in Manhattan with his wife and children.