Graduate student forward Bo Zeigler had an electrifying debut for the Colonials last Friday
By Eric Detweiler, GW Athletics Communications
Bo Zeigler smiled on his way to the foul line, shaking his head in disbelief.
The GW forward had just brought the Charles E. Smith Center crowd to full throat with a breathtaking dunk through contact. He nearly lost the ball as he skied toward the hoop, but he managed to complete the tomahawk jam over a Howard defender, anyway.
It was the kind of high-flying feat fit to lead any highlight reel. Except Zeigler had already thrown down a couple of other fine candidates in his GW debut.
In last Friday's season opener, Zeigler did his part to keep the Buff and Blue-clad fans entertained with six dunks -- all in the second half -- of an 84-75 victory.
The graduate transfer from South Florida converted a pair of alley-oops off inbounds plays, slammed home another lob in the half court and finished a couple more in transition. With his exclamation point, he even surprised himself.
"I like the feel of Smith Center," Zeigler said afterward. "I just feel like I've got an extra bounce in here."
Zeigler provided a glimpse of his impressive athleticism against Howard in tallying 16 points on eight-of-nine shooting in 20 minutes off the bench.
The 22-year-old from Detroit sparked the Colonials with his dunking in the opener. He doesn't have to be soaring above the rim to make a difference, though.
"It's more so the energy," head coach Maurice Joseph said. "It might be a blocked shot. It might be taking a charge. It might be getting a garbage bucket off an offensive rebound. Those are winning plays that he's willing to make. He understands that's part of his role."
Zeigler signed on for that job after spending the past four years at South Florida. The 6-foot-6, 213-pound forward redshirted the 2013-2014 season, so he had the opportunity to transfer for his final season and play right away upon graduating in May with a degree in communications.
Once Zeigler hit the transfer market, Joseph was eager to add an experienced front-court piece to his young roster. It helped that the Colonials had played against South Florida each of the past two seasons.
"Basically, the scouting report said `freak athlete,'" Joseph said. "Just watching him, it's evident he's an elite athlete. I thought he really fit the mold of what we want to do."
In making his decision, Zeigler thought back to last season's trip to Foggy Bottom with the Bulls. It was a thrilling finish with GW taking a 68-67 victory on a go-ahead 3-pointer in the closing seconds, which also meant he got to see the Colonial Army student section at its finest.
Those memories of a loud and enthusiastic crowd helped separate GW from his other suitors.
"They were just talking the entire game," said Zeigler, who averaged 5.0 points in 91 games at South Florida. "I don't even know exactly what they were saying, but they were always speaking, always encouraging their guys, even when they were down."
Now, Zeigler is pursuing a Master's degree in Tourism Administration and a satisfying end to his college career at GW.
From his arrival for summer school, it's felt like a good fit. He immediately meshed with veterans Patrick Steeves and Yuta Watanabe, who are both his roommates. He's relished the chance to serve as a mentor for youngsters like Terry Nolan, Jr., and Maceo Jack.
"Everyone hangs out together," Zeigler said. "Everyone genuinely likes each other. Everyone has a special relationship with one another. That's something that I wasn't used to before."
On the court, Zeigler has been as advertised. He's got to do a better job defending without fouling, be more careful protecting the ball and improve his free throw shooting, but he's got the physical tools to make the astounding plays that show up on SportsCenter and the small ones that don't appear in the box score.
His dunking outburst in the opener came as little surprise to the rest of the Colonials. He's been providing highlights like that behind the scenes for months.
"I got hyped every time he dunked," Watanabe said after the Howard victory. "That was amazing. We need an energy guy, and Bo is one of our energy guys."
Zeigler has been perfecting his dunking for a while. He was a 6-foot-4 seventh grader when he completed his first slam. It took some work with his father, including one drill where he jumped off a chair, before he had the coordination to make them regularly.
These days, it's a trusted part of Zeigler's game. He showcased his full aerial arsenal against Howard. It was hard to pick his best one, though he's partial to the breakaway early in the second half when he grabbed a steal, leaped from a step inside the foul line and slammed it with one hand.
Every one of them sent the home crowd into a frenzy, particularly the student who gleefully held up a sign with Zeigler's picture reading "Bo Knows" in homage to the famous Nike ad campaign centered on Bo Jackson.
Those Smith Center scenes were exactly what he envisioned when he picked the Colonials.
"I love the environment around here," Zeigler said. "There's some great people, and they really love GW basketball. I don't know what else I can ask for."
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