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Rick Barnes updates status of Zakai Zeigler

He sounds positive.

Syndication: The Knoxville News-Sentinel Caitie McMekin/News Sentinel / USA TODAY NETWORK

Believe it or not, we’re just a little over a month away from the return of Tennessee basketball. The Volunteers are set to start the season ranked as one of the best teams in the country, but they’ve still got a bit of a wildcard situation left to deal with to start the season.

Zakai Zeigler, who tore his ACL to open the month of March, is still working to get back to full strength. We know he’s been running around and able to practice a little bit, but when he’ll be cleared for full play remains to be seen.

On Monday, Rick Barnes offered a little bit of an update for us. Barnes was asked whether or not Zeigler would be on the floor for Tennessee’s November 6th opener, and he certainly didn’t shoot the idea down.

“I don’t know if I should say one way or the other,” Barnes said Monday at his golf tournament at Holston Hills Country Club, which raises funds for the Emerald Youth Foundation. “But knowing him, I wouldn’t be surprised. But again, I’m going to leave that up to our doctors and Chad (Newman) and Garrett (Medenwald).

“He has been a perfect model for how you go about rehabilitation terms of the way he’s rehabbed his knee and the way he’s gone at it. Still, I’ll rely on them. But I see him every day and he tells me, he said I’m good, I’m ready to go. But I know that even if he wasn’t, he’d say that.”

“(He’s) doing great and he’s excited, ready to go,” Barnes said, “but we’ll continue to monitor that and bring him back, as you know, not as quickly as he probably wants to, but he is doing great.” (Via On3)

Zeigler’s recovery has seemingly gone as well as it possibly could have to this point. Though it’s not confirmed, Zeigler has a real chance to return to the floor just eight months after the injury.

Freddie Dilione filled in for Zeigler in Italy on Tennessee’s exhibition tour. Even when Zeigler returns, Dilione appears set to have a big role for the Volunteers this season. Should Zakai need some more time, Dilione has at least gotten his feet wet with some experience this summer. Jordan Gainey also got some work running the point in Italy.

Tennessee has the depth to overcome missing Zeigler in the early season should they need to, but as it turns out, he might be ready to go after all.