The Zeller brothers grew up in Washington, Indiana, just a two-hour drive from Butler University, so former Bulldogs coach Brad Stevens is plenty familiar with the family. He even tried to recruit a couple of the boys -- after all, all three earned Indiana's Mr. Basketball honors -- but Stevens admitted he never attempted to hook the middle brother, Tyler.
"I actually didn't recruit Tyler because I didn't think we'd have a chance to get him," Stevens said.
Despite striking out in his pursuit of younger brother Cody and older brother Luke, Stevens, now the head coach of the Celtics, finally landed a Zeller this past week, when Boston acquired Tyler as part of a three-team trade with the Cleveland Cavaliers and Brooklyn Nets.
For the size-deprived Celtics, landing a skilled 7-footer might have been the coup of a risk-free trade that also brought veteran guard Marcus Thornton and Cleveland's 2016 first-round pick. The 24-year-old Zeller, a former first-round selection (17th overall in 2012), should compete immediately for minutes at the center position.
Stevens didn't need a scouting report when assessing what Zeller can bring to Boston.
"First and foremost, I think he's a great transition rim-runner," he said. "I think he can really get out and fly up and down the court. And I think that showed itself a lot at North Carolina. A guy with his skill can score on the block but also stretch the defense and has enough handle and savvy to play facing the basket. And you can kind of play around him -- not too dissimilar from some of other big guys that we have now. He's 7-foot, 250 pounds, and takes really good care of himself and is an invested pro."