Luke Zeller's journey from All-American to D-League Lifer

(Editor’s note: I’d like to cordially welcome MF Iksan to the Air Alamo staff. Iksan is a devout supporter of the Spurs despite living thousands of miles away in Indonesia. You can follow him on Twitter @iksanity. This is his first post. Enjoy.)

Imagine you’re 6’11” with a nice shot and your last name is Zeller. No, I’m not talking about Cody Zeller who’s currently bringing Tom Crean’s Indiana basketball back to life again. I’m talking about the older brother of Zeller trio, the one who’s been traded to several D-League teams, the one who’s played with the likes of Shiga Lakestars and Lithuania (Naglis-Adakris).

Before you read this article, keep this in mind: I’m going to feature a couple of prominent players to familiarize everyone with the Spurs’ Summer League team, who’s currently 2-0 after defeating the Lakers yesterday. Zeller poured in nine points including a pivotal 3-pointer that stymied the ensuing Lakers late rally.

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Zeller finished high school with rather impressive numbers. He averaged 19 points and 8.9 rebounds per game his senior year, good enough to earn accolades such as Indiana Mr. Basketball and McDonald’s All-American.

He parlayed those accolades into a rather inconsequential collegiate career. He averaged 4.2 points, 2.5 rebounds and 41.7% shooting. His only positive contribution was his 3-point shooting (36% from behind the arc). Without much to show for his tenure, Zeller went undrafted in the 2009 NBA Draft.

His basketball career spiraled a bit in his quest to reach the NBA. He played for the likes of Shiga Lakestars (he averaged 8.2 points and 7.2 rebounds) before joining Naglis-Adakris in Lithuania (where he averaged 5.2 points and 3.7 rebounds). His efforts were rewarded as he was selected with the 27th pick in the NBA D-League Draft by the Iowa Energy.

Zeller’s tenure with Iowa was abbreviated. He was traded immediately to the Bakersfield Jam before finding some semblance of continuity with the Austin Toros, where he helped the Toros win the NBA D-League championship. Zeller wasn’t an intricate piece to the Toros’ rotation but he was good enough to average 24.9 minutes despite struggling in his strongest facet — 3-point shooting.

Still, he’s always been a capable shooter with a sweet stroke. Zeller’s journey to the NBA isn’t finished and can be best described as erratic. His primary flaws bode down to post defense and rebounding. Those flaws are a no-no for San Antonio as they’re looking for a big man that can provide those exact qualities. (Matt Bonner sufficiently fulfills the stretch 4 niche anyway.)

With no other redeemable facet in his game except shooting that really stands out; it looks like Luke Zeller’s journey to the NBA isn’t going to end anytime soon.

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Tags: 2012 Summer League Luke Zeller

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