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April 21, 2008

Zeller impressive in Derby Classic

LOUISVILLE — Next season, when Tyler Zeller and the North Carolina Tar Heels make the eight mile trip from Chapel Hill to Durham to face arch rival Duke, Zeller will experience one of the rudest welcomings in sports from the “Cameron Crazies,” the rabid Blue Devil fans who inhabit Cameron Indoor Stadium and who live to verbally assault visiting teams, especially those wearing Carolina Blue.

Zeller got a small taste of what life on the road in college basketball will be like in places like Durham will be like on Saturday at the University of Louisville’s Freedom Hall before a crowd of more than 10,000 fans, many of whom were sporting the colors of the hometown Louisville Cardinals or of the Kentucky Wildcats. When introduced as a member of the Black squad for the Derby Festival Basketball Classic, Zeller drew a loud chorus of boos, as did many of the players who will be attending big name schools not located in the state of Kentucky.

Zeller, though relished the abuse heaped on him during the all star event.

“It was fun coming here, though. I kind of enjoy it just because it kind of motivates you to play harder, to show them that they shouldn’t be booing you,” said Zeller.

Zeller, a starter for the Black squad in its 128-121 win over the Gold team, scored 15 points and pulled down five rebounds in 25 minutes of action.

North Carolina coach Roy Williams likes the 7-0 Zeller’s ability to hit the outside shot, a skill which Zeller showcased on Saturday when he won the 3-point shooting contest at halftime. But the commodity that made Zeller such a hot recruiting prospect last fall before he chose North Carolina was his unusual ability to run the court for a big man, a talent he showed on several occasions, often being the first player down the floor on fast breaks.

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