After almost every game, the opposing coach says the same few words about TCU’s Trey Zeigler.
“You can tell he’s a coach’s son.”
Zeigler would probably say thank you.
“Yeah, I take it as a compliment,” he said. “Being able to show that I have knowledge of the game is definitely a compliment. That’s something that’s followed me throughout my career, my dad’s career, people knowing that I have a high basketball IQ.”
The Horned Frogs and coach Trent Johnson have been counting on it most of the season from the senior guard.
Eligible after sitting out last season following his transfer from Pittsburgh, Zeigler is perhaps the most reliable player — certainly the most versatile — for the Horned Frogs (14-8, 1-8) as they head into the second half of the Big 12 schedule at home Saturday against Oklahoma.
“He’s been doing everything we thought he would do,” Johnson said. “He’s a lot better player defensively than we anticipated. He’s been our leader, he’s been our go-to guy at crucial points. And he’s playing well.”
Zeigler, the son of University of Detroit Mercy assistant Ernie Zeigler, almost provided the moment of the season for the Horned Frogs. His jumper with 1.8 seconds left in overtime at West Virginia three weeks ago put the Horned Frogs up by a point, but they lost the game on free throws less than a second later.
The play demonstrated his natural basketball IQ — he took the inbound pass with 6.8 seconds left, dribbled right, crossed over into the lane and popped a jumper from inside the foul line.
“My immediate reaction was that I wanted the ball,” Zeigler said. “Just to try to create a shot, not necessarily for me, but I knew if I got in the paint, maybe I’d draw two or three guys and make a play for somebody else. Actually, I told some of my teammates, when I dribbled up the court, I knew right away what shot I was going to be able to take. You’ve just got to step up to those moments with confidence and make a play for your team.”
West Virginia coach Bob Huggins wasn’t surprised to see that from a coach’s son.
“First of all, he’s a good player,” he said. “He’s able to understand what’s supposed to happen and the way it’s supposed to happen in different situations, just to have a great feel for the game.”
Zeigler has had to. He starts at shooting guard, but also plays backup minutes for Kyan Anderson at point guard and has just enough size at 6-foot-5 to move in at the forward spots in a pinch. He has started all 22 games and averages 9.2 points, 4.2 rebounds, 2.2 assists and is shooting 45.7 percent.
Despite the results in wins and losses, he is getting the playing time and leadership role Johnson said he could in recruiting him to TCU from Pittsburgh, where he was a sixth man for the Panthers’ 2013 NCAA Tournament team.
“I’m glad. That’s what I came here for, the responsibility,” said Zeigler, who had been recruited to LSU by Johnson out of Mount Pleasant (Mich.) High School. “Being able to be a leader on this team, that’s what I’m here for, being able to step up to the challenge. Me, Amric Fields and Kyan Anderson, we have that responsibility. We have to be willing to step up to the plate.”
Zeigler accepts the task easily because of the influence of his father, who coached him as a freshman and sophomore at Central Michigan. Father and son talk every day and go over every part of the game.
“Throughout the years, he’s been my workout guru. He worked me out through high school, middle school — he was at all my games, I’d get a full scouting report after every game, what I did right, what I did wrong,” Zeigler said. “Even to this day. He’s my right-hand man. He watches film on all the teams we play, believe it or not, while he’s still doing his job.”
So he’s got an OU report ready?
Zeigler smiles. He is eager for Saturday’s game, another chance to turn the season around, but also a chance to hear what his dad has to say about another performance.
“He knows where we are. He’s been nothing but encouraging,” Zeigler said. “He says a lot of the things we’ve talked about — being leaders, stepping up, being able to make plays and help the team out when the time comes. We know these next games are going to come down to making plays. That’s really what we have to focus on in getting over this hump.”
Straight from the coach’s son.
Carlos Mendez, 817-390-7760
TCU men vs. Oklahoma
2 p.m. Saturday, ESPNews