116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
IOWA CITY - Marvin Eberhard's old bones don't allow him to attend many basketball games these days, but there's nothing that could keep him from Sunday's Iowa-Indiana clash.
“I wouldn't dream of missing it,” said Eberhard, 87, a former Springville farmer now living in Marion.
Eberhard's grandson, Cody Zeller, plays center for the Hoosiers and is one of college basketball's best freshmen this year. Zeller ranks sixth in Big Ten scoring at 15.7 points and first in field-goal percentage at 65.6. Zeller is just the latest basketball phenom in Eberhard's family.
Marvin Eberhard's son, Al, played high school ball at Springville and went to Missouri, where he scored 1,347 points in three seasons and was named to the Missouri All-Century Team. In 1974, Al Eberhard was drafted in the first round by the Detroit Pistons. He played four years there, scoring 1,490 points.
Eberhard's daughter, Lorri, played basketball at Springville and later basketball and softball at Coe. Her husband, Steve Zeller, also played basketball at Springville. Their sons - Luke, Tyler and Cody - have become college basketball's first family in recent years.
Luke Zeller was a team captain at Notre Dame his senior season (2008-09) and recently went to NBA preseason camp with the San Antonio Spurs. Tyler Zeller is a 7-foot senior center at North Carolina and the reigning ACC Player of the Week. He scored 23 points against Duke and 25 against Virginia. He averages 19 points and 10.8 rebounds for the Tar Heels. Against Iowa three weeks ago, Cody Zeller sank 11 of 12 shots, seven of which were from dunks for a career-high 26 points.
Eberhard had no idea his grandchildren would become basketball superstars when they were younger.
“Heavens, no,” he said. “I don't think any parent or grandparent would think any such thing. You hope they'd grow up and do well, but you never know. You can get your name in the paper for a lot worse things than they are.”
The Zeller family moved around before settling in Washington, Ind. in 1993. But they returned quite often in the summer to visit Eberhard on his Springville farm.
“They loved the animals,” Marvin Eberhard recalled. “Their folks never farmed. They were townspeople. In the summertime they'd stay a couple of weeks once in a while.”
Eberhard isn't the only member of Cody Zeller's extended family planning to attend the game. Many of Steve's relatives still live in the Springville area and have "got a whole block of seats spoken for," Eberhard said.
Cody, for one, is excited for his personal cheering section on the road.
“I have a lot of cousins who live there that I don't get to see very often,” Cody Zeller said. “My grandfather lives there and he doesn't get to many games, so it is going to be fun. I went back a couple times each year, most of the time to see my grandpa and my cousins. It was always fun.”
Eberhard has yet to see Tyler or Cody play a college basketball game in person. When he could drive longer distances, Eberhard saw Luke play a few times.
Eberhard now fills most of his winter nights at the Village Place in Marion watching his grandsons on television. He said he regrets missing some of Al's games because he was too preoccupied with farm chores and is saddened he can't see his grandsons play more often in person.
That's why Sunday's game is special.
“If I could do it over again, I'd take off more time and seen more games,” Eberhard said. “Once they're gone, you don't get to see them again.
“I've lived long enough to see them grow up and mature.”
Cody wears No. 40, just like Eberhard did as a Nebraska youth. Although Eberhard said he usually roots for the Hawkeyes, that will change Sunday, at least for one afternoon.
“I'll try to make as much noise as I can,” he said. “I'm sure I'll be in the minority there.”