Basketball season is still about three months out, but preparations are already at full song in Knoxville. Expectations are high for the Volunteers with so many pieces of the roster set to return, but a big x-factor will be the health of point guard Zakai Zeigler.
Tennessee’s floor general went down late in the year with a torn ACL — just a devastating ending to his sophomore season with tournament time looming. However, Zeigler is back and working out again, and Tennessee offered a pretty positive video on his progress this week.
“If you ask him, he’d tell you right now he wants to practice today,” Rick Barnes said a couple of weeks ago. “When we first started we came out doing some simple passing drills and he wanted to jump right in and we have to keep holding him back. I think if you talk to (trainer) Chad (Newman) and (strength coach) Garrett (Medenwald) they’d both tell you he’s ahead of where he wants to be but we’re not going to let (him) come back until we know he’s 100% ready and that won’t be until late in the fall probably.”
Zeigler averaged 10.7 points and 5.4 assists last season. Rick Barnes turned to Santiago Vescovi and even Jahmai Mashack at times in Zeigler’s absence, which ultimately ended with a Sweet 16 exit to FAU.
There’s been some question as to whether or not Zeigler would be ready to roll to open the season, but it certainly looks like there’s been plenty of progress made. With the season set to open in early November, Zeigler would be eight months removed from the injury. The Volunteers will need him too, set to take on a stout non-conference slate that includes trips to Maui, Wisconsin and North Carolina. The Volunteers will also host Illinois and take on NC State in San Antonio.