Zeigler Among 10 Naismith Defensive Player of the Year Semifinalists
Courtesy / UT Athletics

Zeigler Among 10 Naismith Defensive Player of the Year Semifinalists

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. –Zakai Zeigler of the University of Tennessee men’s basketball team is a semifinalist for the Naismith Defensive Player of the Year, as announced Wednesday afternoon by Atlanta Tipoff Club/Naismith Awards.

The prestigious list features just 10 individuals on a national level, including two—Auburn’s Johni Broome is the other—from the SEC.

This is the second consecutive year Zeigler is a semifinalist for the elite honor. Three others who made the cut this year also did so in 2022-23: Purdue’s Zach Edey, Creighton’s Ryan Kalkbrenner and Kansas’ Kevin McCullar Jr.

Recently named the SEC Defensive Player of the Year, Zeigler ranks fourth in the league in steals per game (1.87). He finished second in that category in league play (2.11).

Zeigler has snatched multiple steals in 15 of 31 outings this season. On seven occasions, he has recorded four-plus steals, a figure that puts him top-15 nationally, seventh at the Power Six level and second in the SEC.

A native of Long Island, N.Y., Zeigler has 58 steals this year, already just two shy of the top 10 on Tennessee’s single-season leaderboard. His 177 steals in 96 collegiate appearances put him co-sixth in program history and fifth among active SEC players. Additionally, Zeigler’s career steals average of 1.84 per game is fourth all-time at Tennessee and second among active SEC competitors.

Per College Basketball Reference, Zeigler has the eighth-best career defensive box plus/minus (5.00) of any SEC player over the last 14 years (2010-14) and the fifth-most defensive win shares (1.8) in the SEC this season alone.

Zeigler and fifth-ranked Tennessee (26-7, 14-4 SEC) begin play in the SEC Tournament, in which they are the top seed, with a quarterfinal matchup Friday at 1 p.m. ET against a to-be-determined opponent, live on ESPN from Bridgestone Arena in Nashville, Tenn.

To keep up with the University of Tennessee men’s basketball team on social media, follow @Vol_Hoops on Instagram and X/Twitter, as well as /tennesseebasketball on Facebook.  

Adrian “Ace” Baldwin Jr., Penn State
Reece Beekman, Virginia
Johni Broome, Auburn
Devin Carter, Providence
Zach Edey, Purdue
Ryan Kalkbrenner, Creighton
Tamin Lipsey, Iowa State
Kevin McCullar Jr., Kansas
Jamal Shead, Houston
Zakai Zeigler, Tennessee

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