North Carolina forward Tyler Zeller was named Academic All-America of the Year on Thursday -- becoming the first Tar Heel to earn first-team honors for two seasons.
The award is selected by the College Sports Information Directors of America.
“This is a great honor and something I have worked for my entire four years at Carolina,” Zeller, a senior, said in a prepared statement. “To be the first Tar Heel to win this award at a school with so much tradition and prestige adds to the honor. It truly means a lot to my family.
"My parents brought me up with the belief that academics are more important than athletics, so as much as it means to me, it may mean even more to my mom and dad. And I thank them for the guidance and support they’ve always given my brothers and me.”
Zeller, a business administration major, boasts a 3.62 grade point average -- while averaging 15.6 points, 9.4 rebounds and 1.4 blocked shots for the seventh-ranked Tar Heels.
He is the seventh ACC player to earn multiple first-team Academic All-America honors, according to the news release, joining three-time honorees Mike Gminski (Duke) and Tom McMillen (Maryland); and two-time winners Shane Battier (Duke), Todd Fuller (NC State), Terry Gannon (NC State) and Jim Spanarkel (Duke).
Carolina’s previous first-team Academic All-Americas were: Billy Cunningham (1965), Charles Scott (1970), Dennis Wuycik (1972), Steve Previs (1972), Tom LaGarde (1976), Steve Hale (1986), Eric Montross (1993) and Zeller (2011).
“We are ecstatic for Tyler and his family,” UNC coach Roy Williams said in a prepared statement. “He is the ultimate example of a true student-athlete. We’ve been very honored to work with Tyler these past four years and have seen the attention and commitment he’s given to both phases of being a student-athlete. He’s a first-class young man who comes from a great family and is an outstanding basketball player and student.”
To be eligible for consideration, an athlete must be a varsity starter or key reserve, maintain at least a 3.30 GPA and be at least a sophomore.
Follow Robbi Pickeral on Twitter at @bylinerp.