Tennessee Has Launched A Fundraiser To Help Zakai Zeigler's Family

Sometimes in life things can hit you when you're least expecting it, which was the case for Tennessee's Zakai Zeigler this past weekend. According to Rick Barnes and the school, Zeigler's family home in the New York area caught fire on Saturday night and they lost everything in the devastation.

UPDATE: A GoFundMe has been set up to raise money to support Zeigler's family. You can visit the link here and donate any amount of money. 

Thanks to the support of Tennessee fans, along with many donations from other fan bases around the SEC and college basketball, they have raised over $310,000 as of Wednesday night. This comes after the school started the GoFundMe around 3:30 ET. The outpouring of support for the Zeigler family is truly amazing to watch unfold. The initial goal was $50,000, which was raised within thirty minutes of the launch.

In an update on the fundraising site, Zeigler said that 'any contributions above and beyond our final losses/expenses will be donated to charity', while he also thanked everyone for the support. This has been truly amazing to see, especially since Zakai's mother was also raising his special-needs 4-year-old nephew, who lost is all of his accessibility equipment, including a wheelchair and other important medical devices.


The unfortunate events have caused heartache for the beloved Tennessee guard, who has captured the hearts of fans this season with his passionate play on the court and the story of how he became a Vol. He has taken on the role as the key player off the bench, becoming a huge problem for opposing teams this season.

But the news that he received over the last few days tugged at his heart Tuesday night in Athens, especially after he was able to see his mom for the first time since the fire, Rick Barnes said postgame.

"It’s been a really tough couple days for Zakai, after that fire. This was the first time all year he hasn’t looked like Zakai that we've known since day one. It's been a very emotional day. He saw his mom here for the first time since the fire. But it's been a tough couple days for him."

Barnes was asked after the game about when he found out that Zeigler was going through this.

"All I know is when I saw him on Sunday, he looked like he hadn't been in bed all night and he said he was up till 5 or 6 in the morning. Think about it. He loves his family to death and his dad, they were there. And again, they just lost it all. I actually asked him, 'How about you?' And he said, 'I got what I have here, coach.' And he's obviously really concerned about his mother and extended family because it happened so suddenly.

"He's been through a lot, but he never shows his emotion, but today he did," Barnes said. "At halftime it was a very emotional time, nothing from anything that was said, just the fact that he's extremely competitive and knows he didn't play very well, never looked like he was in sync at all. He was locked in during shootaround, but he did have a chance to see his mom before the game, and I think the emotion of that just overwhelmed him. You could just tell he wasn't himself."

The outpouring of support from Tennessee and college basketball fans around the country was on display during the game, minutes after the SEC Network told the story of what happened. It was a frenzy on social media from fans wanting to know how to help raise money for his family during these difficult times.

Josiah-Jordan James has been there for his teammate since he first heard the news, and knows a little about what he's going through. Just last year, James found out his family home in Charleston burned down, so he's just trying to help in any way needed.

"Those are memories that he’s made in that place, and it’s just gone. I’ve gone through what he’s gone through and I know it’s really tough, but, like I said, when it happened to me, players and coaches, they really really lent a helping hand. They gave me space but also comforted me, if that makes sense. It wasn’t the first and only thing they wanted to talk about, and I know he doesn’t want to talk about it a lot, so I just try and keep him distracted and try to keep a smile on his face and know that I’m always there for him, no matter what.”

If there is one thing that stands out about the Tennessee fan base, it's the drive to help. We've seen numerous times over the years where fans have contributed to charities or personal stories that involve either an athlete or just a fan who wears the color orange. This time will be no different. I expect the Vol fan base to take this fundraising challenge and run with it, knowing how much they care for their own.

Rick Barnes was asked postgame about the fundraising efforts to help the Zeigler family, and he mentioned that they should have details hopefully tomorrow. But for now, Zakai's mom will be in Knoxville with her son as they sort through this tragic accident.

"We'll have details tomorrow when we get back. Like I said, his mom came down tonight, she's here and she'll head back to Knoxville. We will have more details on exactly what. Our administration did a terrific job once they got the news on it and got after it and been doing what they have to do to get things in order so that we can help."

The school did ask us to let folks know that they are hoping to put together this fundraising effort through the basketball program and that there was no need to start any type of GoFundMe pages. Everyone who wants to contribute will have the opportunity once Tennessee launches it, which should come in the next 24 hours or so.

Tennessee fans are known for being one of the most vocal and outgoing bases in the country, so expect this fan base to do all they can to help pick this family up during their time of need.

That's just what they do and they've proven that again.


Written by
Trey Wallace is the host of The Trey Wallace Podcast that focuses on a mixture of sports, culture, entertainment along with his perspective on everything from College Football to the College World Series. Wallace has been covering college sports for 15 years, starting off while attending the University of South Alabama. He’s broken some of the biggest college stories including the Florida football "Credit Card Scandal" along with the firing of Jim McElwin and Kevin Sumlin. Wallace also broke one of the biggest stories in college football in 2020 around the NCAA investigation into recruiting violations against Tennessee football head coach Jeremy Pruitt. Wallace also appears on radio across seven different states breaking down that latest news in college sports.