Hometown: Washington, Ind.
Birthday: April 7, 1987
College: Notre Dame
2012-13 Salary: $473,604
Season Outlook: Luke Zeller is expected to use 2012-13 as a developmental year in which he will catch up to the speed of the NBA game, get stronger and spend some time putting what he learns into action in the D-League. Along with fellow rookies Kendall Marshall and Diante Garrett, he will be the first major test of the Suns’ new developmental program. The organization traditionally only carries 13 players, but Garrett and Zeller are Nos. 14 and 15 as the team hopes to utilize the extra roster space to develop a potential diamond in the rough.
Zeller is an elite practice shooter who has yet to carry that over into games both as a D-League performer last season and in the preseason. However, according to general manager Lance Blanks, Zeller is “one of the best shooters in the world.” Head coach Alvin Gentry wouldn’t go that far, only saying we should start by calling him one of the best in the county and work our way up, but clearly he possesses Channing Frye-like floor-spacing ability as a big man.
His defense was a major issue in the preseason, and he seems far too raw to make any kind of a contribution to the Suns this season. However, Zeller has a chance with an organization that believes in him and really values the stretch four kind of player, so perhaps he will get his opportunity to produce in Phoenix in a future season. – Michael Schwartz
Biography: Luke Zeller has faced a tough road to get to the NBA. Most players who make it this level have been the best player on their team at every level of competition. Zeller wasn’t even the best player in his own family. His brother Tyler played college ball at North Carolina and was drafted 17th overall by the Cleveland Cavaliers in June. His other brother Cody is a standout at the University of Indiana.
Indiana is where Luke’s basketball career began. He was named Mr. Basketball and a McDonald’s High School All-American his senior year, but his most impressive feat may have been his State Championship winning shot (see below).
Zeller stayed in-state for college, choosing to attend Notre Dame. Although he played all four years in South Bend and earned a captaincy his senior year, Zeller failed to impress statistically and was not selected in the 2009 NBA Draft.
With his dream of playing in the NBA on hold, Luke headed overseas. He spent time playing professionally in Japan and Lithuania, before returning to the US in 2010 to play for the Bakersfield Jam of the D-League. He played one season for the Jam and one season for the Austin Toros, with whom he won the 2012 D-League championship. He averaged 9.1 points and 5.3 rebounds per game for the Toros.
Zeller played for the San Antonio Spurs in this year’s Las Vegas Summer League. His play earned him an invite to the Phoenix Suns’ training camp where he impressed enough to make their opening day roster.
Links to ValleyoftheSuns coverage of Zeller: