Zez Steeple was one of the most electrifying guards we have seen in our corner of North Georgia in the last decade when balling for Banks County. The former 1,000-point talent from the Class of 2016 went on to Erskine College to play for the Flying Fleet for two seasons before making a move to UNG to play for the Nighthawks.
He wasn’t starving for playing time at Erskine, as he suited up some 55 games, averaging 9.7 points per game and over 2.5 rebounds per contest to go with 3 assists per game. However, he wasn’t enjoying his time there.
“I was extremely excited,” says Steeple on making the move to the University of North Georgia prior to this season. “It brought new excitement into my life. I really wasn’t happy anymore at Erskine, so when I found out I had that interest from UNG, once I was released it was an easy decision for me. Coach [Chris] Faulkner and his staff made me a priority.”
Despite making the leap from Erskine’s NCAA D-II program in the Conference Carolinas to the more competitive Peach Belt Conference that the Nighthawks reside in, Steeple is actually having even more success.
In 2018-19, through nine games, Steeple is putting up career highs in points (13.3), rebounds (2.9), and assists (3.0), as well as blocks (3 total), and steals (0.9). He’s also shooting an unbelievable 43% on 3-pointers, which is actually a tad higher than his overall field goal percentage of 42%.
“I feel I have grown tremendously since arriving on campus,” says Steeple. “Physically and mentally. I’ve probably put on 15 pounds from the weight room. All the individual workouts have improved my game on the floor as well. Mentally, my confidence is once where it was when I was in high school. My coaches and teammates all believe in me.”
The move is clearly paying dividends for Steeple, who has six double-digit scoring efforts in his nine games this year. He put up a collegiate career-best 24 points against Flagler on December 17, draining five triples among only 13 shot attempts.
While Steeple has had great success in college (654 total points; 10.2/game), it hasn’t been easy.
“I believe the biggest adjustment was the physicality of the game,” says Steeple on the difference between high school and college. “Especially now that I play in the Peach Belt [Conference]. Every night in this conference is a battle.”
Steeple, who went to Erskine with former Banks teammate Zac Orr (who also left this past season for another program), got a chance to play last year with another former teammate, Austin Venable (who transfered to Erskine from Presbyterian College). This season, he now gets to suit up with yet another former teammate in Dylan Orr (Zac’s little brother), and former high school foes from Lumpkin, Jack Howard and Zach Pulley.
“I love it,” says Steeple on getting to play with former teammates and rivals. “Those are my guys. Funny thing about Pulley and Jack is that we grew up playing travel ball together for years, so they’ve always been my brothers. It’s great to be back playing with them.”
Steeple scored 1,336 points in his high school career, giving him 1,990 now between his prep and college career. He is a BLITZ Hall of Famer (C/O 2016).
Feature Photo by UNG/Amanda Mazzei