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Zakai Zeigler Receives SEC Player of the Week Honors

Zakai Zeigler Receives SEC Player of the Week Honors
Photo by Ian Cox/ Tennessee Athletics

Tennessee Basketball point guard Zakai Zeigler has been named SEC Player of the Week after back-to-back dominant performances against Georgia and Texas last week.

The honor serves as the second of Zeigler’s career, as the Tennessee sophomore received SEC Freshman of the Week recognition in early February last year. This is the first time Zeigler has ever won SEC Player of the Week.

Coming off his second career double-double, Zeigler had another incredible outing against Georgia to kickoff the week’s pair of games. Zeigler led the Vols in scoring and assists in Tennessee’s 29-point home victory over the Bulldogs, totaling 11 points and seven assists. The Long Island, New York, native also turned in a brilliant defensive performance, recording four steals.

Zeigler continued to dominate in Tennessee’s 82-71 win over No. 10 Texas. The 5-foot-9, 171-pounder recorded his third-career double-double with 22 points and 10 assists against the Longhorns. Zeigler especially came alive in the second half, going on a solo 8-0 scoring run early in the half to give Tennessee a commanding lead.

“I’m not sure there’s a guard in the country that has impacted the game as much as he has, especially in the month of January,” Tennessee head coach Rick Barnes said Monday. “I mean, he has been terrific, every area that you could ask him to be. Zakai is very unselfish. He’s a tough, hard-nosed competitor that just wants to win. But he has really embraced the fact that he does want to play the game different than he had through the years.

Zeigler’s performance against Texas was just the seventh game in program history in which a player had a 20-point, 10-assist double-double, per UT Athletics.

More From RTI: Zakai Zeigler on Incredible Late January Run

Big games have become the normal for Zeigler in January, as the sophomore scored 69 points across the month’s final four games. Since Tennessee head coach Rick Barnes put Zeigler back in the starting lineup ahead of the Vols’ road trip to Mississippi State, Zeigler has averaged 17.3 points, 7.8 assists and 2.3 steals per game. Additionally, all three of Zeigler’s career double doubles came in January (Jan. 3 vs. Miss St., Jan. 25 vs. Georgia, Jan. 28 vs. Texas).

To further put Zeigler’s stretch into perspective, VFL Kennedy Chandler never had a four-game run as good as Zeigler’s. Additionally, Chandler, who was a 2022 All-SEC Second Team selection, only had two double doubles while at Tennessee, with just one coming in league play. Zeigler has three this month and two in his past three games.

Going even further down the road, Tennessee’s point guard from the infamous 2018-2019 team, Jordan Bone, never had a four-game stretch in league play as good as Zeigler’s.

Since Zeigler re-entered the starting lineup, Tennessee is 4-0 with a pair of road wins and a home win against a Top-10 team.

“What can you say about him?” Barnes said after Zeigler’s big night against Texas. “I mean, he’s got to be right there with the very best point guards in the country when you think about what he does night in and night out, consistently doing it. Learning the position as he goes through with it. Defensively, he does it.

“How many minutes did he play tonight? 37… What he’s learning how to do is make his teammates better, which is the sign of a point guard — Zakai becoming a point guard — understanding that’s his job. Find a way to make his teammates better on the offensive end. I think as he continues to do that, he’s going to make everybody better. And by doing that, we get better.”

Zeigler is the third BasketVol to receive SEC honors this season, joining senior guard Santiago Vescovi and freshman wing Julian Phillips. Vescovi won SEC Player of the Week on November 28, and Phillips won SEC Freshman of the Week last week.

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