INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Former Indiana men’s basketball stars Victor Oladipo and Cody Zeller teamed up one more time for their alma mater Wednesday night.
They cherished every moment.
The two college teammates, who have moved on to the NBA, signed autographs, shared laughs and traded stories with about 500 fans who showed up at Lucas Oil Stadium for a late-summer event co-sponsored by the school’s alumni association and Varsity Club.
“It’s always good to come back and be around people you know,” said Oladipo, who plays for the Orlando Magic. “All those memories come rushing back.”
That seemed to be the case for everyone at the star-studded autograph table.
The two 2013 NBA lottery picks were essentially welcomed into the alumni fraternity by new basketball Hall of Fame inductee Bobby “Slick” Leonard, 1989 Heisman Trophy runner-up Anthony Thompson and former Hoosiers running back George Taliaferro — the first black player drafted by an NFL team.
Yet for Oladipo, who was taken No. 2 overall in the 2013 draft, and Zeller, taken No. 4 overall by Charlotte, this was more of a business trip.
Earlier this week, they were working out in Bloomington, Indiana, along with Dwyane Wade and a small contingent of his Miami Heat teammates. It turned out to be an informal reunion between Indiana coach Tom Crean and three of his best basketball students.
Together, Crean, Oladipo and Zeller helped the Hoosiers dig out from an NCAA scandal and put Indiana back on the national basketball map with two straight trips to the NCAA tournament’s regional round. Before moving to Bloomington, Crean and Wade worked together at Marquette.
Crean used the workouts to give some of his younger players a rare glimpse into what it takes to make it in the NBA.
“The timing was such that not everyone could make it, but some of the guys got to watch,” Crean said. “There’s no way they can’t get better when they have an opportunity to watch guys like that work in the summer.”
Leonard, the star of Indiana’s 1953 national championship team and now a Pacers radio broadcaster, said the four greatest years of his life were in Bloomington and that he has been following Oladipo and Zeller since they started playing at Indiana.
Zeller is helping the Hoosier State’s tentacles extend to Charlotte, which drafted another ex-Hoosier forward, Noah Vonleh, in the first round in June and then signed former Pacers guard Lance Stephenson in July.
“I didn’t get to play with Noah when I was in school, but it’s going to be fun here,” Zeller said. “I’ve not talked to Lance yet, but I played against him three times this year and everyone in the NBA knows each other pretty well, so it’s going to be good having him.”
All of the memories were not so fond, though.
Hoosiers fans thought Lucas Oil Stadium would be the venue for Indiana through the 2013 Midwest Regional and right into the Final Four. Instead, Indiana wound up going to the East where it lost to Syracuse in the final college game for Zeller and Oladipo.
Not that it mattered to the old friends Wednesday.
“It’s just good to be back in Indiana, around home, around the Indiana fans,” Zeller said. “And any time you can be around Vic, it’s great.”