Photo via Tennessee Athletics
Tennessee Baseball head coach took a break from talking baseball during his Wednesday night press conference to share his sympathy for Tennessee Basketball point guard Zakai Zeigler’s injury.
Zeigler suffered a season-ending torn ACL early in the first half of Tennessee’s 75-58 win over Arkansas on Senior Night Tuesday.
When asked about what third baseman Zane Denton has brought to the plate for Tennessee this season, Vitello took a quick break to reflect on Zeigler’s unfortunate situation.
“On behalf of our team, I can tell you sunken hearts today and last night for Zakai [Zeigler],” Vitello said. “That guy kind of embodies what we are trying to do around here. The way he plays, the way he works and the way he carries himself off the field. If I was a Kentucky basketball player, I would not like that guy. He plays with some attitude, plays hard and plays with a chip on his shoulder. But if I was a young kid, a six-year-old, running around the stands in any SEC city – I’d love that guy. He’s just so good off the field.”
Zeigler is the heart-and-soul of Tennessee Basketball and has been for the better part of the past two years. The impact of Zeigler’s injury cannot be overstated.
“He is such an unbelievable, wonderful person,” Tennessee Basketball head coach Rick Barnes said Tuesday. “He had been crying as you would imagine. He was hurt. It is tough.”
Vitello and Zeigler are known to have had interactions dating back to last season. It all started with Vitello rocking a Zakai Zeigler shirsey during the Tennessee vs. Auburn basketball game.
Tony Vitello in the house rocking a Zakai Ziegler jersey 🍊 pic.twitter.com/SB4Hj2V90U
— Zack Rickens (@ZackRickensTV) February 26, 2022
— Jack Foster (@jackfostermedia) February 26, 2022
“After the game I hugged him,” Zeigler said after Tennessee’s win over Auburn.
In response, Zeigler sported a Tony Vitello shirsey the following week during a press conference.
Zakai Zeigler showing off his Tony Vitello Shirsey. #Vols pic.twitter.com/WWtj9k5ixt
— Jack Foster (@jackfostermedia) March 7, 2022
The respect Vitello has for Zeigler is apparent, and it was no surprise to hear Vitello, unprompted, express his sympathy for Zeigler’s setback.
It’s all apart of God’s plan. Minor setback for a Major comeback🙏🏽🧡
— Zakai Zeigler (@Realzakaiz) March 1, 2023