It was something short of an explosion, but it certainly was progress for Charlotte Bobcats rookie Cody Zeller on Monday night.

The 15 points he scored against the Washington Wizards were his NBA high. He also grabbed eight rebounds. He played plenty of meaningful minutes in a game that had stakes as far as the Bobcats’ playoff situation.

Sure beats what happened during November and December, when he struggled to stay on the court without fouling. The fourth overall pick in June’s draft is finding his way in the NBA, and it shows up in recent numbers:

In his first 55 games, Zeller averaged five points and four rebounds, shot 38 percent from the field. Over the past 19 games, he’s averaging eight points and 5.1 rebounds and shooting 52 percent.

“You’ve got to make such quicker decisions,” Zeller said of the difference between college ball at Indiana and the NBA. “If there’s a play there, you’ve got to make it because of the shorter shot clock than college. If there’s a shot, you’ve got to take it. If there’s a gap you’ve got to drive it.

“And you’ve got to stay confident in your skills.”

Bobcats coach Steve Clifford always valued those skills. He liked Zeller as a shooter, ballhandler and most importantly decision-maker. But it didn’t particularly surprise Clifford it would take a while for Zeller to catch up to pro basketball nuances.

Clifford thinks that difference – from the best conferences in college basketball to the starters in any NBA game – is wider than the public or most college players understand.