For the second summer in a row, Charlotte Hornets forward Cody Zeller taught basketball overseas as part of the NBA’s Basketball Without Borders program.
Last summer it was Taiwan. This summer it was Spain with teammate Gerald Henderson. The difference was this summer Zeller had to teach more with words than demonstration because it’s a chore to raise his right arm above his head.
Zeller is recovering from shoulder surgery that was more extensive than first expected. He tore his rotator cuff during the season.
“They were hoping it would heal on its own,” Zeller said in a telephone interview. “Six weeks after it happened they decided to go in and clean it up. When they found it was more than 50 percent torn, they did an anchor and a stitch. It was about 80 percent torn.”
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Zeller considers it a blessing they discovered the extent of the damage so he could get it fixed and move on. He’s out of his sling and recently regained the range-of-motion to raise his arm straight up. He is yet to be cleared to start shooting.
The timetable is for him to be cleared for full activity in July.
Zeller hadn’t done much traveling outside the United States before going to Taiwan last summer.
“This is fun for me – a great chance to see the world,” Zeller said. “We’re working with the best high school players in Europe and Asia. A few years ago I was in their shoes.”
Zeller was impressed by how well-schooled these players were, relative to their American counterparts.
“They have very strong fundamentals. Even the 6-10 guys make 3s,” Zeller said. “Americans are still more athletic, but these guys have such high basketball IQs.”
Henderson left Spain on Friday with a similar impression.
“Maybe one kid out of the 50 we worked with would be what you’d call a good NBA athlete,” Henderson said. “But four or five of them could be pros because of their skill set. All the way up to 6-10 they could shoot and they’re all really smart with the ball.”
Bonnell: 704-358-5129; @rick_bonnell