Watford played professionally in Israel last season after going undrafted in the 2013 NBA Draft. He was invited to the NBA Summer League this year, where he played for both Detroit and Golden State.
“I’m all in for the NBA, man,” Watford told the Herald-Times last month. “I really think I can play in that league.”
INDIANAPOLIS — He had already signed autographs and posed for pictures. And after he answered the final question lobbed his way from a group of reporters at Wednesday’s Hoosiers On The Road fan event at Lucas Oil Stadium, Cody Zeller turned to walk toward the next portion of his night among the glow of Hoosier love.
But, before he did, he flashed that vintage Cody smile.
“That was more media coverage than I got all year,” he said with a laugh.
What do they say? It’s Indiana.
Zeller and Victor Oladipo were back in the area working out this week, and the two spent a few hours with fans at Wednesday’s event in Indianapolis. I touched on their return in Thursday’s print edition of the Herald-Times, but there were, of course, some snippets left on the cutting room floor. They follow.
Zeller on ending up in a good situation in Charlotte:
“I feel very fortunate. I have a great coaching staff that I learned a lot from this year. It’s a good group of veteran guys. Making it to the playoffs my rookie year is a big deal, a big opportunity for me. I kind of got a taste for it and hopefully there’s more to come. It was a great first year for me.”
Zeller on playing with former Pacer Lance Stephenson next season:
“Everyone around here is upset about it, but I’m excited about it. I think he’ll be able to help our team a lot and be another scoring threat for us.”
Zeller on IU’s upcoming basketball season:
“I think they’ll be good. I think they have a lot of guards, a lot of skill positions with Yogi (Ferrell). I was impressed with Rob Johnson and all those guys, the freshmen coming in. Obviously and Hanner (Mosquera-Perea) and Troy (Williams) looked good. They have some pieces there if they can put it all together.”
Oladipo on the reception of the Indiana fans Wednesday:
“It’s great. Been a year since we’ve even played and they still treat us like we’ve been playing every year since we left. It’s just crazy. Definitely a crazy fan base and they treat us so well when we come back here. It’s hard not to come back.”
Oladipo on adjusting to the NBA:
“I gotta work on a little bit of everything. I haven’t even scratched the surface. I was saying that even when I was here. Being the No. 2 pick is cool, but I feel I have so much more to accomplish. I’m just gonna continue to keep working, keep getting better every day.”
Indiana athletic director Fred Glass was also available to the media Wednesday. He spoke on a variety of department topics, but there was one area where Glass wouldn’t go.
When asked if he would characterize Indiana’s split with Curt Miller as amicable, Glass declined to comment.
“I’m not here to talk about that,” Glass said. “If you want to talk about that at another time, that’d be great.”
Indiana will hold a similar fan event in Bloomington on Friday. Baseball coach Chris Lemonis and volleyball coach Sherry Dunbar-Kruzan are scheduled to speak.
Sorry to do this three weeks in a row, but we’re going to move the live chat back to Friday at 11 a.m. Andy and I are going to be out at IU football availability.
Fret not, you can submit your questions in advance by going here:
In his short time as a walk-on forward at Minnesota a decade ago, Alex Popp saw for himself the premium placed on rebounding in the Big Ten.
He saw how it could require a higher caliber of player, and how it was often the difference between beating the big boys of the league and falling short.
So, Popp, the current Vermont Academy basketball coach, doesn’t think twice about Emmitt Holt’s ability to transition to the Big Ten at Indiana.
Holt committed to IU on Wednesday morning, becoming the latest piece to the Hoosiers’ 2014 class. He will take the program’s final available scholarship and be ready for the upcoming season. The 6-foot-7 Holt has a 7-foot-3 wingspan, wears a size 18 shoe and figures to be another ready-to-use addition to Indiana’s 2014-15 frontcourt.
“He brings an elite level of rebounding to the table,” Popp said. “He shoots a high field goal percentage, he scores around the basket and has a nice touch. The upside is there. While he might be undersized for the typical Indiana University power forward, he has a high ceiling because he’s still growing into his body.”
Holt averaged 19.8 points, 14.6 rebounds and five blocks as a senior at Webster Schroeder High School in Webster, N.Y. He planned to reclassify to the 2015 recruiting class and spend a year of prep school at Vermont Academy.
Then Indiana came calling.
Under the efforts of new IU assistant coach Chuck Martin, the Hoosiers made the winning overture. Martin has extensive ties to the East Coast and had a prior relationship with Popp, along with Holt’s AAU team Albany City Rocks.
Holt went to Twitter with the news of his commitment on Wednesday morning.
“My parents always told me that the worst feeling in life is to look back and say ‘I wonder’ because once doors close it’s rare they are reopened,” Holt tweeted. “Today I would like to announce that I have committed to Indiana University.”
According to Rivals.com, Holt also had offers from Vermont, Duquesne, Hofstra, Towson, Fairfield and Drexel. Popp contends that had Holt spent the upcoming season playing with his program in the competitive New England Preparatory School Athletic Council, he would have had over 25 high-major offers.
“He knew in his heart he was being under-recruited,” Popp said. “…Emmitt was going to explode. Indiana was smart to take him before that happened. We’re obviously a bit sad it’s not going to work out for us, but that’s kind of part of the job.”
The Big Ten men’s soccer coaches’ poll was released Wednesday afternoon, and it appears the rest of the league is skeptical of the youthful Hoosiers. Indiana came in fifth in the poll, while conference newcomer Maryland was the pick to win the league crown. Michigan State, Michigan and Penn State also are ranked ahead of the Hoosiers.
Indiana’s trio named to the players to watch list consisted of junior Femi Hollinger-Janzen, who sat out Tuesday’s exhibition game as a precaution with soreness in his knee, sophomore Tanner Thompson and senior Jamie Vollmer.
In women’s soccer, the Big Ten coaches’ poll came out last week and despite last year’s fourth-place finish and appearance in the second-round of the NCAA Tournament, Indiana was picked 10th. Hoosier players to watch were Tori Keller, Abby Smith and Veronica Ellis.
We’ll hear from Fred Glass, Tom Crean, Kevin Wilson and others tonight in Indianapolis at IU’s On The Road event at Lucas Oil Stadium.
The event is open to the public, with an autograph session featuring Victor Oladipo, Cody Zeller, Slick Leonard, George Taliaferro, Anthony Thompson and Whitey Kapsalis set for 5:30-6:45 p.m. Crean, Wilson, Glass, Todd Yeagley and Don Fischer will speak between 7-8 p.m.
Tickets are $15 for IU Alumni Association and Varsity Club members and $20 for non-members. Admission for children between the ages of 6-12 are is $5. Kids under 6 are free.
The Big Ten will release conference schedules for the upcoming men’s and women’s basketball seasons during BTN Live at 6 p.m. Thursday.
When we get the full non-conference slates, we’ll have them here, too.