Although he won’t be on the court with his teammates for the SEC Tournament or the NCAA Tournament later this month, injured Tennessee point guard Zakai Zeigler is still making a big difference to his team.
In Tennessee’s penultimate regular-season game against Arkansas last week, Zeigler suffered an ACL injury in the opening minutes of the contest that has forced him to miss the remainder of the season.
Scary sight in Knoxville as Tennessee’s Zakai Zeigler goes down with a non-contact leg injury.
Not trying to speculate but it looks pretty similar to an ACL injury. Hope he’s good. pic.twitter.com/7yD8WwuGyc
— CBB Content (@CBBcontent) March 1, 2023
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An ACL injury in the second-to-last game of the season is something all too familiar to Tennessee fans after watching superstar quarterback Hendon Hooker this past football season.
But, like Hooker, Zeigler is finding a way to impact his team in other ways. Zeigler is staying positive with his teammates and continuing to use his basketball knowledge and experience to his advantage.
While speaking with the media for the first time since his injury on Wednesday, Zeigler pulled back the curtain on what happened the night of his injury and how he is continuing to stay positive throughout it all.
Check out everything that Zakai Zeigler said on Wednesday as the Vols prepare for the SEC Tournament in Nashville on Thursday.
On what was going through his mind in the short term after the injury…
“I was just thinking how could I be as positive to the team as possible. I knew once going down it was going to be a pretty bad injury. I wasn’t sure at the time what it would be but I was just thinking how can I help the guys no matter what the situation, how can I stay positive.”
On how he can help the guys…
“I would just say staying positive, talking to them as much as possible, letting them know what I see on the sideline because this is a whole nother ball game looking at the game from the sideline than on the court. You see more things. You see all 10 guys on the floor really easily. I would just say letting everyone know what I see on the court and staying positive. Trying to help them in any situation.”
On how challenging the last week has been emotionally, mentally…
“It’s been a little bit challenging but I’m trying to stay around my teammates and they keep me positive. It hasn’t been as bad. It is tough because I want to be on the court. I want to be playing but things happen. Everything is about God’s plan. I’m just staying the course.”
On if there’s a timetable for when he could return…
“As of right now I’m not really 100% sure but I plan on being back next season before we start.”
On how long it took him to get in the mindset of helping others…
“When I went down. Right away. I never thought in any moment I’d lose value on the team or I’d lose love for the team or the guys wouldn’t have my back or I wouldn’t have their back. Once I went down I already knew that I’m still going to play a big part on this team.”
On who has been there for him since the injury…
“I’d say everybody because if anything they’re checking up more on me than I am calling them. They say come hang out with me or I’m going to hang out with them. Anything like that. They’ll take me out to eat or my mom calls me. It’s everybody. It’s everybody in the program— Coach Barnes. All the coaches. Everybody is always checking in on me to see how I’m doing.”
On the key for the team adjusting without him…
“I would just say it’s the same thing when I’m on the court or off the court. Just staying together is the biggest part. If we’re not together and everyone is doing it individually or on their own it’s going to be a whole different ball game because we haven’t played like that all year so we’ll always stick together no matter what.”
On what he likes about the team’s play without him…
“I would say the fight never stopped no matter what its was. No matter if it was me going down, it wasn’t alright we have to have Z’s back, it was we still have to win the game. I would say that is my biggest thing. I like that all the guys had all their fight in them and everyone stepped up when they needed to.”
Tennessee guard Zakai Zeigler jokes around about his outside shot from the scooter at SEC Tournament practice on Wednesday pic.twitter.com/2XmQS4PSlV
— Rocky Top Insider (@rockytopinsider) March 8, 2023