College Spotlight: Steeple relishes being THE MAN at UNG
Nothing seems to phase Zez Steeple. The electric guard who plays a style of ball similar to a Russell Westbrook is enjoying once again, a career year. That’s been true for each of his four years of college ball, as each season he has elevated his game to another level. In full disclosure, that has also been the case during his days at Banks County (class of 2016).
In his senior year at the University of North Georgia, Steeple is averaging 14 points per contest (slightly lower than his junior year of 14.3). Through 16 games, he is averaging a career-best 3.0 rebounds per game, and has hovered between 2.7-3 assists per game throughout his collegiate career.
As the leading scorer for the Nighthawks, who are currently 10-10 on the season, Steeple is relishing the opportunity to be the go-to man for UNG.
“It feels good,” says Steeple. “Just having younger guys and even guys my age look up to me and expect a good performance every time I step on the floor. I try to be the best I can every day to set an example for those to come after me. I’ve never been the type to feel pressure. I just do what I know I can do. The work shows results.”
While the Banks County native focuses on the moment, he’s also well aware of his playing days perhaps coming to an end in the not-so-distant future.
“It’s super surreal,” says Steeple on recognizing the time is running out. “There is nothing like college basketball. Getting to play at this level is such a blessing. Every time I take the floor, I know it’s inching towards my last in a UNG uniform. Therefore, I try to give my all and do whatever to get us into the tournament.”
There’s no doubting the guard has left everything on the floor, as his career — both at UNG for the past two seasons and his first two at Erskine College — has seen him accomplish the elite figure of 1,000 career points, which he hit in a game earlier this season.
“It was a great feeling,” says Steeple. “Just knowing the amount of time I’ve put in and the work I’ve done. To see it pay off and to accomplish such an accolade is a blessing. Doing it at both levels is rare.”
By both levels, he’s referring to eclipsing the rare 1,000-point figure in both high school and college. To date, Steeple has 1,159 points, 283 assists, 269 rebounds, 64 steals, and has made 183 3-pointers at the college level. He’s scored in double-figures in 60 of his 99 games, and 11 times has scored 20-plus, including a career-best 27 in a game last season.
His career really took off after leaving Erskine to play NCAA Division-II ball for UNG. After averaging 9.3 points as a freshman and 10.2 as a sophomore at Erskine, Steeple went off for 14.3 per game last year and 14.0 this season so far. His field goal percentages also took the flight to UNG. Prior to playing for the Nighthawks, he was shooting about 36% overall and around 34% from 3-point range and 65% from the free throw line. Those figures at UNG are 43% from the field, 40% from outside, and 69% at the line. After having only 3 20-point games at Erskine, he had 5 last year alone at UNG and already 3 such games this year. His career also includes one double-double.
“I don’t have any regrets,” adds Steeple. “Every part of my career was a learning experience. Even with transferring, I feel like it let me see a lot and meet people that will forever impact my life.”
With knowing he’s in the final weeks/month of his collegiate career, Steeple has bigger goals than padding stats.
“I would love to go to the conference tournament and make a run,” says Steeple. “That’s how I want it to end. Just making that final push and win big games.”
At 10-10 overall and 5-7 in the Peach Belt Conference, there is still time for the Nighthawks to step in that direction. Regardless of if his goals for the team come to fruition, there’s more beyond the game at UNG for Steeple.
“My dream has always been to play overseas professionally,” says Steeple. “I think I’ve put myself into that position to make those dreams come true. Life after that, I’d love to train kids and get into AAU basketball coaching. Be on the lookout for that!”
Steeple is in the BLITZ Hall of Fame after he tallied 1,336 points in his prep career. His senior year saw him average 22 points, 4 assists, 2.4 rebounds, and 1.1 steals per game, earning him BLITZ Player of the Year honors.
College Spotlight (Framed) – Zez Steeple
College Spotlight (Framed) - Zez Steeple