Zeigler’s debut season a slam dunk

Redshirt freshman Bo Zeigler started 16 games for the Bulls and averaged 6.4 points and 4.5 assists per game. ORACLE FILE PHOTO/ADAM MATHIEU

Bo Zeigler first learned how to dunk when his dad, Zane, began teaching him the ins and outs of basketball when he was 11 years old. 

“His mom is 6-foot even, and I’m 6-3,” Zane said. “I figured he would be tall, so I just wanted to take him to the gym and show him some stuff in case he wanted to play when he got older.”

To get his young son familiarized with dunking, Zane would place a chair underneath the rim.

“Jump off the chair and dunk, and I’m going to pull the chair from under you,” he would say to Zeigler.

Zeigler would hang from the rim and jump down. When he got comfortable with laying the ball in the rim, he didn’t need the chair. He was dunking by the eighth grade. 

Zane recalled watching his son’s first dunk at Detroit Community High School.

“We were at the game,” Zane said. “He just kept shooting jumpers, and one of my cousins in the audience said, ‘You just gonna keep shooting jumpers?’ Then, he went around the baseline and dunked on the whole team. They had to pull him out of the game because he was hyperventilating — he was so excited. That blew me away when he did that.”

Basketball in the Zeigler family dates back to the 40s.

“My uncle was a Globetrotter, and his father was a Negro League baseball player,” Zane said. “(I have) a couple uncles that played all kinds of sports, a bunch of cousins that play. I have a cousin that plays for TCU, Trey Zeigler. It’s deep in the family.”

Zane surrounded his son with family members who played basketball, baseball and football.

“Just being around them gave me a good aura of being a well-rounded guy,” Zeigler said. “Just being respectful and humble all the time. I just felt like I built my identity around those types over the years, and that just got me into basketball.”

Zane stressed the fundamentals of basketball, which Zeigler said has helped him “tremendously.”

Zeigler can play multiple positions, but ESPN.com ranked him as the No. 33 small forward for the class of 2013.

Zeigler moved from his hometown of Detroit to Tampa after former coach Stan Heath, a family friend, recruited him. 

The communications major was a redshirt his first year, which gave him the opportunity to learn and grow. 

“I came in at 182 (pounds),” Zeigler said. “I just felt the redshirt year helped build strength. Just from watching the game, watching spots where I felt like I could be effective, watching Victor (Rudd), Martino (Brock) just attacking in certain ways. Watching and getting stronger over the summer helped me a lot.”

Heath was fired after that season, but Zeigler didn’t trade in his green and gold. 

“He didn’t even call and ask me about it,” Zane recalled. “He said, ‘Dad, I ain’t going nowhere. They gave me a chance, so I appreciate USF giving me the opportunity to be here.’”

Zeigler highlighted the Bulls’ (9-23, 3-15) lackluster season with his thunderous dunks. 

“He’s very long,” coach Orlando Antigua said. “He’s very explosive. For him to be able to make those plays really energizes our team.” 

The 6-foot-6, 202-pound player improved his game throughout the season.

Zeigler played a career game in a win over rival UCF. In the penultimate game of the regular season, Zeigler recorded a double-double and scored a career-best 20 points with 10 rebounds. 

He threw down two dunks in the 74-45 blowout.

His offensive performances can bring fans to their feet, but his defensive skills are duly noted.

“I can give us an advantage on the defensive end more,” Zeigler said. “Like with switches, guarding switches, hedging on screens, using my quickness as an advantage, running, getting out fast. We like to run a fast-paced game.”

Zeigler finished with a team-high 138 rebounds and a .506 field goal percentage. 

Antigua sees the potential in Zeigler and said he has to continue to get stronger.

“He has to continue to work hard with his ball handling, his shooting and his overall handling of the game,” Antigua said. “I see that he has a bright future ahead of him.”

While Antigua focuses on Zeigler’s potential to become a building block for the Bulls’ future, Zane can’t help but see how far his son has come since he began teaching Zeigler nine years ago. 

“I see so much stuff that he learned from childhood,” Zane said of his son. “Little, minor stuff like how he boxes out, how he checks people and uses his length. All that stuff, he learned when he was a kid, and I see him doing it now. That just blows me away.”