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Evansville Courier & Press (Indiana)
Victor Oladipo and Cody Zeller dreamed of leaving a legacy inside Assembly Hall, the kind that would hang at the north end of the old arena, where IU honors its national champions with iconic red-and-white banners.
They finished painfully short of that goal in 2013.
So, when Indiana approached the former teammates about leaving a different legacy — contributions to the renovation of IU's men's basketball locker room area — Oladipo and Zeller didn't hesitate.
"Honestly, we felt like we didn't give that school what we wanted to give them, which was a national championship," Oladipo told reporters earlier this week. "Giving back to them and doing that, it doesn't necessarily fill the void, but it just makes it feel a little better. Just wanted to give back to the guys like guys before us gave back to us."
Oladipo and Zeller both gifted unspecified monetary donations to the extensive renovation of that locker room area at Assembly Hall, a renovation completed in time for last weekend's Hoosier Hysteria.
Included in the remodel is the Oladipo Zeller Legacy Lounge, a space complete with tables, chairs, high-back loungers and a television, as a gathering space for the current team.
"The biggest thing I just wanted was to make the guys feel at home, feel comfortable," Oladipo said. "Just show people we care, and that we're watching. We're always watching, we always care, we're always rooting for them.
"Just a little token of our gratitude, from us to them."
The new locker room area is the latest update to Assembly Hall, which itself has undergone wide-ranging renovation in the last two years.
Indiana recently constructed a spacious new south entrance to the arena, added club seating at the south end of the bowl, replaced all the seats inside Assembly Hall and overhauled several of the building's infrastructural systems, among other things.
Now, thanks to urging from IU coach Archie Miller and donations from boosters including but not limited to Oladipo and Zeller, the men's team has brand new locker room space.
"It's just pretty amazing, man, how far it's come," Oladipo said. "I never thought they would actually renovate it. I thought it would stay old-school. It's pretty cool to see how it's changed a little bit, and it's kind of got a modern feel to it. ...
"The one thing they didn't change was the main court. It's still the same. Everything else on the outside might be a little different, but the heart of the arena is the exact same."
Oladipo and Zeller were teammates at Indiana for two seasons, from 2011-13. They were part of two Sweet Sixteen runs, were both on the floor when Christian Watford hit his memorable shot against Kentucky in 2011 and were cornerstones of the team that won the 2013 Big Ten title outright.
Both were named consensus first-team All-Big Ten that season, and Oladipo was awarded defensive player of the year in the conference.
After a disappointing NCAA tournament loss to Syracuse ended their national title dream, Oladipo and Zeller declared as underclassmen for the NBA draft, where they were taken second and fourth overall, respectively, in 2013.
Zeller went to Charlotte and has stayed there, while Oladipo began with Orlando, before being traded to Oklahoma City and then Indiana. Through it all, they've stayed close.
"I think the best part about it, honestly, is being able to share it with Cody," Oladipo said. "Same draft class, on the same team. Every time I go to Charlotte, I see him. Every time he's here, he sees me. It's like we never miss a beat."
IndyStar Pacers Insider J. Michael contributed to this story. Follow Zach Osterman on Twitter: @ZachOsterman.
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