With Zeller Leaving, Indiana’s Crean Has High Hopes for Vonleh

ROSELLE, N.J. — Noah Vonleh was recruited all along to help replace Cody Zeller at Indiana.

Now that Zeller and teammate Victor Oladipo have made it official that they’re headed to the NBA Draft, Hoosiers coach Tom Crean knows the 6-foot-8 Vonleh must play an important role.

“I think Noah was going to be fantastic whether Cody was there or not, so Noah’s going to be an excellent player,” Crean told SNY.tv on Friday at a coaches’ clinic at Roselle Catholic High School. “And he can do a lot of different things and he’s just going to get better and better.”

Still, filling Zeller’s shoes right away is a lot to ask. The 7-foot sophomore averaged 16.5 points and 8.1 rebounds for Indiana, which was ranked No. 1 for several weeks this season but fell to Syracuse in the East Region semifinals in Washington, D.C.

“The bottom line is you can’t make comparisons to anybody,” Crean said. “I mean, that’s not fair to anybody. So the bottom line is just getting him better and having him have the confidence that he needs to have to be successful.”

The 6-foot-8, 220-pound Vonleh out of the New Hampton (N.H.) School played in both the McDonald’s and Jordan Games, and didn’t dominate in either. He went for 3 points and 6 rebounds in 11 minutes in the McDonald’s Game, and posted 4 points and 3 boards in 13 minutes in Saturday’s Jordan Brand Classic. His West team defeated the East, 102-98.

The West team also featured fellow Indiana commit Troy Williams, who had 8 points and 2 steals in just 9 minutes.

“I think he brings tremendous energy, athleticism, a winning mindset, a winning spirit,” Crean said of Williams. “Phenomenal in the open floor. Will need to become a better halfcourt player, a better halfcourt defender. Help him get his ability to shoot the ball with consistency down, but I love how he’s been coached. I love that he’s really been well-coached for some time now.”

Indiana has four other commits in forwards Collin Hartmann, Devin Davis, Jr. and Luke Fischer and guard Stanford Robinson.

With the departure of guard Remy Abell via transfer, Indiana has also offered a scholarship to Gill St. Bernard’s point guard Jaren Sina.

Sina told SNY.tv Saturday at the Jordan Classic that he is considering taking a visit to Indiana. He met with Northwestern coach Chris Collins on Sunday and is also considering Seton Hall and Alabama.

Indiana reportedly has 13 scholarship players at this moment.

Photo: Boston Globe

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