IU gets symbolic boost with Cody Zeller

The lone recruiting intrigue surrounding signing day this week was the impending decision of Cody Zeller. Zeller, a 6-foot-11 power forward from Washington, Ind., narrowed his choices to North Carolina, Indiana, and Butler months ago, but until today, he had given little public indication -- and none of the reporters closely following his situation seemed to know -- where Zeller would end up.

Today, in his high school gym in Washington, Zeller finally revealed his decision. He's going to IU.

The decision is important from a basketball standpoint, of course. Zeller is the No. 15-ranked recruit in the 2011 class, a near-seven-footer with range and polish, and he would have started immediately wherever he went. Context aside, the signing of a top-15 recruit is always a big deal.

But Zeller's decision took on a life of its own in recent months -- rarely is the signing decision of a player national news, which is what Zeller's decision became -- mostly thanks to Indiana fans. The Hoosier faithful are desperate to wake up the echoes, and so Zeller's decision represented not only the signing of a good basketball player but the ushering in of a new era at Indiana under Tom Crean. Could IU keep its best players in the state? Could it harvest its best grassroots talent and become a national power yet again? Could Crean do what no one since Bob Knight had done?

Zeller wasn't just a player. He was a symbol.

Of course, it doesn't hurt that many believe Zeller's commitment paves the way for Kevin "Yogi" Ferrell, the second-best point guard in the class of 2012 and an AAU teammate of Zeller's, to go to IU. (Several of Zeller's Indiana Elite teammates, including elite 2012 recruit Hanner Parea, have already committed to IU.) The dominoes may or may not fall that way, but at the very least, Zeller's decision to attend IU stacks them in order. Considering where this program has been in the past five years, and the tantalizing possibility suddenly on hand, it's easy to understand Indiana fans' outsized exuberance.

Will Cody Zeller have the same immediate impact as John Wall, Derrick Rose, Demarcus Cousins, or Greg Oden? No. Is he a surefire pro? Maybe not. Does he mean much more than that to Indiana fans? Oh, you better believe it.