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Center Grove graduate is roommate of big man on Indiana campus

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Jonny Marlin occasionally reminds his roommate of the morning their high school basketball teams battled inside the world’s largest high school gymnasium.

A near-sellout crowd of 7,000 fans were present inside New Castle’s Chrysler Fieldhouse to watch Center Grove defeat Washington 68-64 in a semifinal at the 2010 Hall of Fame Classic.

As for Marlin’s roomie, 7-foot Indiana University sophomore and consensus All-American Cody Zeller, his recollections aren’t nearly as concise.

“I bring it up. He doesn’t. He just kind of smiles,” said Marlin, a 5-10 point guard who after his freshman school year at IPFW elected to transfer to IU and walk on to the Hoosiers’ men’s basketball team. “Cody will be like, ‘I don’t know what you’re talking about. I’ve played so many college games since then.’”

Marlin per NCAA rules is ineligible to compete in games for Indiana during the 2012-13 season. However, he practices with the team and dons a crimson jump suit while seated at the end of the bench for Hoosiers home games. He doesn’t accompany the team to road games.

Marlin becomes eligible to play next season. In the meantime, it’s Basketball 101, and head coach Tom Crean is the professor.

“Obviously, it’s different, but it’s a good different. I can’t play in games, so it’s practicing and doing extra weight-room stuff,” Marlin said. “I would love to play next season at 172, 175 pounds. Something like that. But I have a very fast metabolism.”

Marlin weighs 163 pounds, a noticeable upgrade from the 147 pounds carried while helping lead Center Grove to a 17-4 record and Class 4A sectional title in 2010-11. By comparison, the Hoosiers’ other point guards, 6-footers Jordan Hulls and Yogi Farrell, weigh 182 and 178 pounds, respectively.

Hulls is a battle-tested senior whose work ethic is somewhat legendary in and around Bloomington. Paying close attention to how Hulls and IU’s other upperclassmen handle their business in practices and on game days also is benefiting Marlin.

“Jordy Hulls is just unbelievable, and (6-7 junior swingman) Will Sheehey is so good at reading screens and back cuts. But I can’t finish like Will can,” Marlin said, laughing. “In college you have four or five coaches, so it’s just a lot of little things. Staying low on defense. Footwork. Just little things like that.”

Then there’s the somewhat surreal experience of rooming with Zeller, a sure-fire lottery pick should he decide to declare for the 2013 NBA Draft, in an off-campus house. Given the 14-inch height discrepancy between the friends, Zeller’s groceries are always on the refrigerator’s top shelf, Marlin’s on the bottom.

Everyone on campus knows who Zeller is. People are just beginning to know Marlin.

“I just say, ‘That’s Cody. He’s my roommate.’ He’s just such a humble kid. We were out to eat the other night and he’s stopped two or three times before we even get to our table. He’ll always introduce me and say, ‘This is Jonny. He’s on the team, too,’” Marlin said.

Zeller would have to return for his junior season for there to be any possibility of Marlin feeding the big guy an assist during an actual IU game. Even if it doesn’t happen, Marlin is confident he made the right choice in transferring to Indiana.

“I’m having a lot more fun down here because several high school buddies of mine go here,” Marlin said. “And my brother (Chris) lives in Bloomington now, too.”

For now, Center Grove’s career assist leader is a Marlin in a big pond. And he’s enjoying every minute of it.

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