Photo via Tennessee Athletics
Tennessee sophomore point guard Zakai Zeigler is out for the season with torn ACL, the Vol basketball program announced Wednesday afternoon.
one thing we know for sure— there is no keeping Zakai Zeigler down
praying for a speedy recovery, Z 🧡 pic.twitter.com/6SB3hujSje
— Tennessee Basketball (@Vol_Hoops) March 1, 2023
Zeigler exited Tennessee’s win over Arkansas in the game’s opening minutes after collapsing and spending multiple minutes on the ground before Vols’ trainer Chad Newman and strength coach Garrett Medenwald helped him off the court.
“I went in at halftime after I got done taking to the team,” Tennessee coach Rick Barnes said postgame. “He is such an unbelievable, wonderful person. He had been crying as you would imagine. He was hurt. It is tough.”
The sophomore point guard is the heart-and-soul of this Tennessee basketball team. Multiple Tennessee players have discussed how they feed off Zeigler’s energy earlier this season.
“Obviously there’s nobody here, I don’t think there’s anybody in the nation, that can replace Zakai and what he brings to the table outside of just assists, shooting,” Jahmai Mashack said. “I think it’s energy. It’s irreplaceable.”
Zeigler averaged 10.7 points and 5.4 assists in 30 games this season while developing into a true pass first point guard during SEC play.
The sophomore is Tennessee’s most used offensive weapon and helps facilitate much of the Vols’ offense. Tennessee played well with Zeigler sidelined against Arkansas, knocking off the Razorbacks 75-57 at Thompson-Boling Arena.
Tennessee had offensive success due to its seniors. Olivier Nkamhoua, Santiago Vescovi and Josiah-Jordan James all scored in double-digits and the Vols’ four healthy seniors 60% of its points against the Razorbacks.
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With Zeigler sidelined, Tennessee will handle point guard duties by committee. Santiago Vescovi and Jahmai Mashack carried the load against Arkansas and when Tyreke Key returns against Auburn it will provide an extra boost.
“Obviously, we won’t rely on one person to do it as much, which is fine,” Barnes said. “We will get Tyreke (Key) back. We need him to get back. We know what he is capable of. We will do it I guess by committee if that is how you look at it but we have always kind of done that the last couple years.”
The Vols return to the court Saturday afternoon against Auburn. Tip-off is at 2 p.m. ET with ESPN2 broadcasting the game.