Wyandanch’s Zakai Zeigler energizing No. 8 Tennessee’s NCAA title chase


Zakai Zeigler has picked up right where he left off last season.

Last year’s SEC Sixth Man of the Year has helped lead Tennessee men’s basketball to a historic start this season. Ranked No. 8 in the country, the Volunteers (13-2) have already knocked off perennial powerhouse Gonzaga and the defending national champions Kansas.

Zeigler, 20, a sophomore who grew up in Wyandanch, leads the team in assists and ranks third in the SEC in assists per game. He is second in the SEC and 14th in the country with 2.4 steals per game.

Once again playing the sixth man role, Zeigler is a spark plug off the bench and ranks second on Tennessee in minutes played. He is third on the team in scoring, recently notching his first career double-double (11 points and 10 assists) in Tennessee’s 87-53 torching of Mississippi State on Jan. 3.

In December, playing in front of friends and family at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, Zeigler was named Basketball Hall of Fame Invitational Game MVP when he scored a team-high 12 points for the Vols in their 56-53 win over Maryland.

As a freshman, Zeigler was third on the team in scoring, was second on the squad in steals and led the Vols in free throws made.

Up next for Tennessee is a home game game against interstate rival Vanderbilt on Tuesday at 9 p.m. The game will be televised on the SEC Network. On Saturday, the Vols host Kentucky at noon; the game will be featured on ESPN.

Top photo: Tennessee guard Zakai Zeigler (5) drives past Mississippi State guard Dashawn Davis (10) during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game Tuesday, Jan. 3, 2023, in Knoxville, Tenn. (AP Photo/Wade Payne)