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But Zeller also found out how rugged life can be in the Big Ten when you’re the target. Only seven Division I players attempted more free throws during the regular season than Zeller’s 241 in 2012-13, and he often wound up crashing hard to the floor.

With scouts still projecting him as a lottery pick in June, Zeller made the safe choice.

“That’s basketball, (injuries) can happen at any time,” Zeller said. “It’s part of the game, part of what goes into the decision, and that was the risk of coming back this year, too.”

Where exactly Zeller falls in the draft will likely be determined on the workout circuit. Zeller said he intends to trade notes with Oladipo as the two vie to be top-10 picks and promised to finish his degree by completing two summer sessions and six credits of online work.

While athletic 7-footers such as Zeller are a rare commodity, the transition from being known around as campus as “The Big Handsome” to being just another NBA rookie comes with many potential pitfalls. Some analysts believe Zeller still needs to get bigger and stronger and must figure out how to play through contact. And should Zeller need any additional advice on what it will take to make it, he can make a couple of phone calls.

“It’s a huge adjustment because you’re not always the biggest and strongest. You’re playing against grown men every night,” Tyler Zeller said after Wednesday night’s loss to the Pacers.

The youngest Zeller, Indiana’s 2011 Mr. Basketball and a three-time state champ, is ready to give it a try.

“I think the guys kind of expected it,” Zeller said. “The people who helped me the most, I asked them to put themselves in my shoes and asked what they would do. A lot of them, a lot of teammates told me they would go.”