By Mike Myers, Asst. Sports Editor
LOUISVILLE — Next season, when Tyler Zeller and the North Carolina Tar Heels make the eight mile trip from Chapel Hill to Durham to face arch rival Duke, Zeller will experience one of the rudest welcomings in sports from the “Cameron Crazies,” the rabid Blue Devil fans who inhabit Cameron Indoor Stadium and who live to verbally assault visiting teams, especially those wearing Carolina Blue.
Zeller got a small taste of what life on the road in college basketball will be like in places like Durham will be like on Saturday at the University of Louisville’s Freedom Hall before a crowd of more than 10,000 fans, many of whom were sporting the colors of the hometown Louisville Cardinals or of the Kentucky Wildcats. When introduced as a member of the Black squad for the Derby Festival Basketball Classic, Zeller drew a loud chorus of boos, as did many of the players who will be attending big name schools not located in the state of Kentucky.
Zeller, though relished the abuse heaped on him during the all star event.
“It was fun coming here, though. I kind of enjoy it just because it kind of motivates you to play harder, to show them that they shouldn’t be booing you,” said Zeller.
Zeller, a starter for the Black squad in its 128-121 win over the Gold team, scored 15 points and pulled down five rebounds in 25 minutes of action.
North Carolina coach Roy Williams likes the 7-0 Zeller’s ability to hit the outside shot, a skill which Zeller showcased on Saturday when he won the 3-point shooting contest at halftime. But the commodity that made Zeller such a hot recruiting prospect last fall before he chose North Carolina was his unusual ability to run the court for a big man, a talent he showed on several occasions, often being the first player down the floor on fast breaks.
Zeller got several layup attempts on the break, usually from passes in transition from Black squad Larry Drew who, like Zeller, was a McDonald’s All American this season and is also headed to North Carolina. The two future Tar Heels appeared to already be developing a chemistry on the court.
“He (Zeller) runs the floor like a gazelle, man. People say that all the time, but it’s true,” said Drew, the 2008 Los Angeles, Calif., player of the year. “I really like that about him. It’s easy for me to see him, so I get him the ball. I think we’re going to be pretty comfortable playing with each other.”
“He’s a great passer, he’s always looking to pass. He can also hit the open shot, he’s a fun point guard to play with,” Zeller said of Drew, who finished the night with nine points and six assists.
Zeller, Indiana’s Mr. Basketball, easily outplayed his Black squad teammate and Kentucky Mr. Basketball, University of Kentucky recruit Darius Miller, who netted just six points in 23 minutes on the court. Zeller will lead the Indiana squad against Miller and Kentucky in the annual series in early June, then immediately depart for North Carolina to began preparing for the upcoming college season.