The Zeigler household must talk through some big decisions in the next month.
While CMU men’s basketball coach Ernie Zeigler eyes a pending contract extension, his son, Trey, a senior at Mount Pleasant High School, must decide where he will continue his basketball career.
Trey, a four-star 6-foot-5 shooting guard/small forward recruit, has narrowed his list to five schools — Duke, Michigan, Michigan State, UCLA and, yes, Central Michigan.
“It’s definitely something he and I have thought about throughout the years,” Ernie Zeigler said. “The possibility is there. For any father and son that have the type of relationship he and I have, it’s an intriguing possibility.”
Does Trey stay home, lead his father’s team to new heights and stay close to his immediate family, or branch out and play for a national power? Most people think CMU is not a real option. But it’s a great fit for several reasons.
The Zeigler family is a tight-knit group, according to those who know them well. Zeigler’s wife, Seantelle, and daughter, Skylar, who enters high school next year, attend as many of Ernie’s and Trey’s games as possible. His grandmother resides in the Mount Pleasant area as well. That could bode well for CMU.
Each school has its draws. Ernie Zeigler was an assistant coach at UCLA for three years under Ben Howland and UCLA is, after all, in Los Angeles. Michigan and Michigan State give Trey a chance to stay relatively close to home and play in the Big Ten Conference. And Duke simply is the standard in college basketball.
At CMU, Trey could step in and play right away with senior guards Robbie Harman and Jordan Bitzer graduating.
The Chippewas are back-to-back Mid-American Conference West Division champions, and the program has taken steps forward in each of Ernie Zeigler’s four seasons.
A remodeled Rose Center opens in the fall and likely would be packed if Trey suits up in maroon and gold.
“There’s no reason that Central Michigan can’t win MAC championships and make it to the NCAA Tournament and make a great run,” said CMU assistant coach Darren Kohne. “But the reality of it is that there have only been two real mid-major schools to win a national championship game.”
That’s the sticking point. CMU does not have the tradition, competition or notoriety of Trey’s other four finalists. The program has had only four winning seasons in the past 31 years and made the NCAA Tournament only five times in its history — the last coming in 2003.
It wouldn’t be easy at CMU — Trey would be the target every night, and the pressure would be immense to lead the Chippewas to new heights. At another school, he could bide his time behind older, more experienced players.
But the challenge is there — why not take it? Kohne said CMU’s recruiting class already has been ranked No. 1 in the MAC without Trey. Add him along with five other newcomers and a solid returning nucleus and there’s no telling what the Chippewas can accomplish in the next four years.
Trey has said he will make his decision in April, likely near April 14, when the spring signing period begins.
Ernie Zeigler has called the chance to coach his son a “beautiful thing,” especially because of the demands of his job.
“I’ve had to miss a lot of things that a lot of parents don’t have to miss,” he said. “To have that opportunity to coach him in every game and be at every practice, and be the one that’s continuing to direct and develop his game, is definitely an intriguing possibility.”
Trey’s season is done — he led the Oilers to the regional finals in the state tournament, scoring 20 points and collecting 13 rebounds in a 69-49 loss against USC-bound Maurice Jones and Saginaw Arthur Hill. Trey finished his senior season averaging 24.3 points per game, despite being routinely double- and triple-teamed by the opposition.
Whatever Trey decides, he possesses lofty potential. But CMU presents an opportunity that many never have, and he still would be able to raise his NBA stock in the NCAA Tournament, which Davidson’s Stephen Curry did a few years ago.
“We’ll sit down as a family and start to talk about his likes and dislikes and what’s going to be good for him,” Ernie Zeigler said. “At the same time, as the coach at Central Michigan, trying to put that plug in for me and our program as well. I think if the two streets intersect, it’ll be a great meeting on that corner.”