By Dennis Glade
Washington Times Herald
Washington residents don’t get to see Tyler Zeller much these days, but for one night, he was back in Indiana.
Zeller, along with his Cleveland Cavaliers teammates played the Indiana Pacers Tuesday night at Bankers Life Fieldhouse, much to the enjoyment of more than a hundred Washington residents that made the two-hour trip to Indianapolis.
The Cavaliers lost the game in unimpressive fashion by blowing a 20-point fourth quarter lead, while Zeller scored 18 points on 9-17 shooting. The fans who traveled the 113-mile trip to get a glimpse of the former Indiana Mr. Basketball enjoyed the night.
“It’s exciting,” said Washington resident Pat Wade. “We’re just excited to see him play again. The last time we got to see him play here, we won the (2008) state championship. This might be downhill from that, but it’s still exciting.” The small community of Washington has always rallied around its basketball team, the Hatchets, but the emergence of the Zeller boys at the Hatchet House intensified that fandom. From 2005-2011, Washington won four state championships starting with Luke Zeller and ending with potential 2013 lottery pick Cody Zeller.
“It makes me proud, because that family is such a quality family,” said Washington resident Carl Breeden. “I’m never embarrassed when somebody asks me if I’m from Cody or Tyler Zeller’s hometown.” Washington coach Gene Miiller, who coached Tyler and Cody at Washington, said it’s always nice when the community gets a chance to come and cheer on one of its native sons.
“The community likes coming here, and likes to come to Bankers Life (Fieldhouse),” Miiller said.
“It’s nice to see Tyler (Zeller) have a good game here. He’s one of them. The community takes great pride in what the three Zeller boys and their family have accomplished.” After the game, Zeller came out to greet the long line of people along the sideline at the Fieldhouse. Zeller shook hands, signed autographs and took pictures with every person in attendance. He understands the support he has received in his career at the University of North Carolina and now in Cleveland, and he appreciates it.
“It’s awesome,” Zeller said. “Washington has been good to me all the way through college, and now in the NBA. You always go back home and you see North Carolina shirts, now you see Cavaliers shirts, and obviously you see the Indiana shirts. They have always followed my whole family. It means a lot to my whole family to have a community that stands behind us so strongly.”