The first time graduate student forward Bo Zeigler stepped onto the Smith Center court, he was in enemy territory.
GW faced off against the University of South Florida in an early December game last year, where Zeigler was playing for the Bulls. After a tight contest, the Colonials came out on top, courtesy of a buzzer-beating, game-winning three-point shot.
The memory of that game – and the high-energy atmosphere of the crowd at the Smith Center during the defeat – stuck with Zeigler, he said. Months later, when he graduated last spring, he recalled that night and decided he wanted to play on that same court again, but instead as a Colonial.
“That is actually what played a deciding factor for me coming here,” Zeigler said. “Just playing in this environment with these fans, it was just a tough environment.”
Zeigler’s college basketball experience, versatile defensive skills and athleticism will make him an integral player on the court this season, head coach Maurice Joseph said.
He said the team’s offensive style will be faster and more athletic than last year’s strategy. On the defensive end, Joseph said he’s looking for his team to crash the glass, fight for rebounds under the hoop and plug the holes that come with not having a true center player on the roster.
As a graduate transfer, Zeigler is eligible to play for GW immediately and help make up for the team’s lack of a big man.
“He rebounds well, he defends well, he plays with tremendous aggression and pace,” Joseph said. “He definitely gets us going with that athletic fast-pace type of game that we want to play.”
Zeigler sees himself as a threat both offensively and defensively on the floor, he said.
“I am a good mobile player so when we go down the other end, they will have to guard me too,” Zeigler said. “I am tough enough to bang down low.”
Zeigler’s defensive prowess adds another dimension to the team that it doesn’t have outside senior guard Yuta Watanabe, Joseph said.
“He has a chip on his shoulder defensively and he takes a great deal of pride in team defense,” Joseph said. “He has been very vocal in practice early, which has been very refreshing to have a guy who is that tough of a competitor out there.”
Out of high school in Detriot, Zeigler was ranked the No. 22 small forward in the Class of 2013 by ESPN and had offers to play at schools like Iowa State and Connecticut.
In his final season at South Florida, Zeigler averaged 4.7 points per game and 3.5 rebounds, while grabbing 21 steals and 19 blocks. The Bulls went 7-23 overall in the 2016-17 season and were last in the American Athletic Conference with a record of 1-17.
Joseph said Zeigler’s athleticism reminds him of former GW basketball player 2014 graduate Isaiah Armwood, who transferred into the program from Villanova.
During Armwood’s senior year, the team finished with 24 wins, to which Armwood contributed an average of 12.7 points per game and 8.4 boards per game. He tallied 119 total blocks, the sixth-highest total career blocks in the program.
Zeigler’s transition into the program has been smooth, in part due to his three previous years of college basketball experience, he said. Although new to the team, Zeigler hasn’t shied away from giving advice to his teammates, especially the four freshmen, he said.
“I was once in their shoes, so when I see things I can point them out and give them my advice,” Zeigler said. “It is things that people didn’t really do for me when I was a freshman, so I just try and help out and be as vocal as possible.”
Just as the Smith Center’s atmosphere left an impression on Zeigler, despite only scoring four points in the game last December, Zeigler left an impression on his current teammates as well.
“When he played us before he could drive by people,” Watanabe said. “I think he’s going to play a really important role for us.”