PICKERAL

Zeller invests in future

Staff WriterAugust 1, 2010 

North Carolina forward Tyler Zeller hopes to invest his own millions of dollars one day.

And when the time comes, he just might be able to invest yours, too.

Before training earlier this month in Las Vegas as part of the USA Basketball Select Team, the 7-foot junior was interning at Morgan Creek Capital Management in Chapel Hill, learning more about the business he might enter once his college and pro playing days are done.

"Yesterday I was looking over a hedge fund and comparing it to other hedge funds, and just trying to figure out which one's best," Zeller, who worked with the company's financial analysts, said last month. "It's definitely interesting, and you learn a lot about returns and standard deviations and all those things you've been learning about in class."

Zeller plans to enter UNC's business school next semester, which makes sense, considering numbers have always been his thing: "They just click; I don't have to try hard at it. When I was little I had more trouble with my ABCs than I did counting to 100."

But for all the love he has for digits, there is one he's trying to put out of his head - 33, the total number of games he's missed the past two seasons because of injuries. As a freshman in 2009, Zeller burned a redshirt season and returned from a broken wrist to play a part in the Tar Heels' national championship. But by the time he came back from a stress fracture in his foot last season, UNC had deteriorated so much that it could only manage an NIT run.

"I know what I can't do is worry about getting injured again," said Zeller, a projected starter this season after averaging 9.3 points and 4.6 rebounds as a sophomore. "... If it's going to happen, it's going to happen. I think if you worry about it, you're more prone to get hurt."

And that's something Zeller and UNC want to avoid this season, considering the Tar Heels' lack of big men.

Without David and Travis Wear - the freshman forwards who opted to leave town and transfer after the season without telling their coaches or teammates - Zeller is one of only three players 6 feet 8 or taller available to play in the post.

Zeller, who roomed with the twins, still appeared baffled by the way they made their exit: "I saw them the day before they left, and they didn't say anything [about not coming back]. Ed [Davis] called me the next morning and said, 'They left.' I said, 'What are you talking about, I saw them yesterday?' And he said, 'They left - it's all over the Internet.' I didn't know what to think."

As of this interview last month, he still hadn't heard from the Wears. He said he holds no animosity toward them, but he also prefers to look forward, not back.

"John [Henson] and I just need to work harder now, and we use it as motivation," he said. "It is great, because no one can come in to back us up now ... so we're going to play a lot. But it's terrible, because if you get in foul trouble, you don't have backups. You play bad, you don't have anyone to come in and help us out. So John and I know that we have to be even more focused."

And he is. To fit the internship in with his training schedule, Zeller worked from 8 a.m. until noon most days, then worked out at the Smith Center at either 1 p.m. or 3 p.m., before playing pickup games around 5.

He could often be found on the court again at night - trying to fine-tune his post moves and jump shots.

An NBA prospect, he may want to invest his (or your) million-dollar paycheck one day. But until then, he's concentrating on increasing another number: his team's wins.

"Last year, it left a bitter taste in our mouth," he said. "We want to come out and prove that we are national contenders, and we are an NCAA-quality team again."

No golf for Coach K: You don't hear Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski lace his news conferences with golf stories, like his counterpart eight miles down Tobacco Road, because unlike UNC's Roy Williams, he doesn't have many golf stories to tell.

"I went out a couple times - just for me, it doesn't work," Krzyzewski said last month. "I like watching it, and I'm all for people who want to do it. ... I think it's a [heck] of a game. The only thing is, if I did it, [if] the four of us went out, the three of you would want to beat me, more so than each other, so you could say 'I beat him.' And then I would not like that.

"So then I would want to beat you, and then I'd have to practice. ... It doesn't work for me. ... Sometimes I'll drive around in a cart with a foursome, and putt - or putz, whatever it is. But it would take a long time, and I'd have to make a commitment to it."

robbi.pickeral@newsobserver.com or 919-829-8944. Follow on twitter at bylinerp.

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