A quick one-on-one with North Carolina center Tyler Zeller, a potential lottery pick in Thursday’s draft:
SI.com: You must be excited this process is almost over.
Zeller: I just got done with my last workout yesterday in Detroit. It is really nice to have that over with.
SI.com: Everyone is curious how draft picks feel about the workout process. Would you prefer individual workouts? Or do you like going up against what is essentially the competition?
Zeller: I actually didn’t have any individual workouts this year. And that was fine. I really don’t mind going up against whomever. [Illinois center and lottery hopeful] Meyers Leonard and I were together a whole lot. We’ve gotten to know each other. We joke around how we’re like a big traveling circus.
SI.com: So do you play one-on-one? Two-on-two if there are some guards around? Do you post up chairs, like Yi Jianlian?
Zeller: Everything, depending on who is there. If it’s two bigs, we go one-on-one hard. If it’s four bigs, we’ll even do some two-on-two. And if you’ve got some guards and wings, we’ll do three-on-three. And then there are all sorts of individual drills.
SI.com: Any drills you hate?
Zeller: We’ve seen them all by this point in our careers. But there are some dribbling drills that can get pretty interesting for me. It’s not one of my, let’s say, stronger zones. I can do between the legs and behind the back once or twice, but once you start getting me up and down the court — I had to chase the ball a lot. I got about two dribbles in me, and after that, it gets interesting.
SI.com: You’re a 7-footer, though, so teams probably don’t expect that.
Zeller: I hope not.
SI.com: You have talked about how your jumper is a strength some teams might not have known about, based on the system you played at Carolina. In Year 1 of the NBA, how far out do you think you’ll go with it?
Zeller: Probably the college three-point line. I’ve been working on the NBA three, but it’s a very streaky thing. I have never really shot it before. Hopefully I can go out there at some point in my career.
SI.com: You were probably prepared for teams to dive into your background, right? To hear about how they had called your high school coach’s cousin about you?
Zeller: Yeah. Some of it is they try to get to know you as a person, and I just try to be myself. Some things they have to check, like if you’ve ever been arrested. And I have nothing to hide. But with one team, we were out at a meeting, and one of their guys just said, “Hey, how’s your girlfriend?” And thought, “Umm … I never told you I had a girlfriend.” I was like, “Oh, damn.”
SI.com: And different teams have different psychological tests, right?
Zeller: Each team has its own test, or some just ask you to talk to their sports psychologist. And you never hear the results.
SI.com: Were any of the tests hard? Like IQ tests?
Zeller: Some of them are just personality tests that measure how you are — what kind of person you are, how you should be coached, how you handle things. But some of them do have IQ tests, and they are pretty challenging.
SI.com: Did you come away thinking any team had a radically different culture than the others?
Zeller: Not really. Most of them are pretty similar. They have different niches, maybe, but you do your workouts, and then they want to have you meet with lots of different people. And then you’re back at the hotel. Some have workouts last for two hours, some for 50 minutes, but you get the same basic things accomplished.
SI.com: What’s going to be the hardest part of defending in the NBA?
Zeller: The guards coming off the pick-and-roll are just phenomenal. In college, you really are playing the big man or the guard, but not both. The NBA is going to be a challenge. Derrick Rose is coming off a screen, and you have to be ready to contain him.
SI.com: The draft is in two days. Have you picked out your outfit yet for the TV broadcast?
Zeller: I have. It’s picked out. It’s getting fitted.
SI.com: How much of the fashion choices did you contribute?
Zeller: That’s just my personality. You can have a lot of input in what you wear if you want, but I have a fashion adviser who is doing it for me, and the marketing people at my agency are doing a great job making sure the process is going well. They tell you to have three or four different outfits — I don’t remember the whole dynamics of it. But you need three or four — one for the green room, one for the interviews, and something else.
And I do have veto power over anything.
SI.com: Have you exercised it?
Zeller: I had to veto one shirt.
Zeller: It just had colors all over the place. There was just too much going on for me. I’m a simple guy.