Playing in the shadow of Division-I prospects Jordan Roberts and Justin McCall, Levelle Zeigler never really had an opportunity to showcase what he could do after moving to Bakersfield from Oakland heading into his junior year.
The Ridgeview graduate’s season was also derailed by a broken right hand, suffered in a victory over Independence that season.
He eventually recovered, helping the Wolf Pack capture the Central Section Division 2 championship as the team’s point guard. Roberts is now at Long Beach State, with McCall playing in his own backyard at Cal State Bakersfield.
Zeigler’s path took a two-year detour through East Los Angeles College, but his talent finally led the 6-foot-1, 178-pounder to the Division I level when he committed to Chicago State this weekend.
“It means a lot, especially coming from a JUCO,” Zeigler said. “It’s hard to get a scholarship from a (junior college) so it means a lot to me and my family.
"But they really wanted me. It wasn’t a situation where a coach that wants you because they need to fill a spot or some other guy didn’t sign. They made me a priority, so that feels good.”
Zeigler helped his cause with a solid resume built at East L.A., one of the top teams in the state the past two years.
The first-team all-South Coast Northern Conference performer averaged 9.5 points, 3.3 rebounds, 4.1 assists and 1.5 steals for the Huskies, leading the team to a 29-1 record and a berth in the CCCAA State championship Elite Eight.
“I’m excited for him and they’re getting a really good guard,” said Michael Martin, Zeigler’s former coach at Ridgeview. “He can shoot the hell out of the ball and he’s a great leader. He’s also become really good in the classroom since high school. He was good then, but (he’s better now). I think he can do it all for them. They gotta steal, actually.”
In addition to working on his game on the court, Zeigler also put in his time in the weightroom, transferring himself physically by gaining 23 pounds of muscle the past two years.
“I mean it’s a grind,” Zeigler said. “You gotta work. You gotta play with a chip on your shoulder, and it’s also a business, too, so you gotta keep the little things in your mind to keep you going. And that’s what I did this year. And that’s what I’m going to do this upcoming season.
“I feel like I improved on my strength and my pace. And on my knowledge of the game. I feel like I’m smarter in knowing when to score or to facilitate, and stuff like that. That’s what (the East L.A. coaches) helped me on.”
Now it’s on to the next chapter for Zeigler, where he will try to do his part to turn around a Chicago State program that has averaged just four victories a season the past five years.
“I think he was ready to go out of high school, but a lot of times if you’re not 6-foot-6, 6-7 or 6-8, it’s hard because guards are a dime a dozen at his size,” Martin said. “You have to be really special. I just think that it slowed him down (recruiting wise) when he got hurt, or he would have hit the spotlight a little sooner. But LJ is legit and should have been a D-I guy from the start.
“He’s a great leader, too and he can manage the team. He really managed our team. With having Justin and Jordan on the wings and him at the point guard spot, it really helped control the game. He’s going to do well.”