Ziegler embodies leadership for Jeeps

Photo by Marlena Sloss/The Herald
Northeast Dubois' Ethan Ziegler is an asset to the Jeeps through his leadership.


DUBOIS — Ethan Ziegler does a lot of things for the Northeast Dubois Jeeps.

He initiates offense, is one of the team’s better shooters and often guards the opposing team’s number one option. On top of all that, Ziegler is often the player that’s checking in with the coaches to figure out what’s next on the agenda whenever there’s a pause in play.

“Ethan leads the team in trips to the bench during dead-ball situations to talk about what we’re doing next,” said Jeeps coach Terry Friedman. “He’s always thinking ahead during the course of the game. He’s always saying, ‘Should we look at this? Should we try this?’ He’s got the mind of a coach.”

From the start of the season, Ziegler knew the biggest challenge for himself and fellow senior guard Reece Bauer would be in coaching up the younger varsity players so the Jeeps could maximize their shot at a sectional championship. He embraced the responsibility, knowing that he had something to offer his teammates with his experience and basketball IQ that could help everyone reach their full potential.

“The goal was to bring a lot of the other guys with us,” said Ziegler. “We’ve been the seniors and we played some varsity together. We knew we were going to (need) a lot of help from the juniors and sophomores. We knew they could do it. We’ve known we would have a decent shot at the sectional. Now that it’s here, we feel like we still have a good chance. I just really wanted to win.”

Friedman likens Ziegler to being a second coach on the floor, even to the point of having to remind Ziegler to let him coach. Ziegler will move guys into their proper spots on the floor and goes into detail about what’s happening in a way that connects quickly with his teammates. Friedman feels his job is that much easier by having Ziegler and his intelligence available to the team.

“He brings a steady influence to the team,” said Friedman. “Ethan is more patient, especially with the younger players. He’s able to take the time to explain plays and what we’re doing in certain situations. With our Little Jeep program, Ethan is very good with the youth and working with them in our summer camps. Ethan has real patience in his leadership. It may suit him well to be a coach one day.”

Ziegler said he never really envisioned himself in that leadership role in the past. But as time moved forward and the players before him graduated, he suddenly found himself in the senior spot on the team. So with that, he worked on becoming a positive force that could keep the other players’ spirits up as they experienced the grind that goes along with the season. Ziegler felt that he could take what he had learned from prior senior players and apply those lessons in doing his part to lead the Jeeps. But he admits there were aspects about the role that he had to pick up through experience.

“It definitely comes at you when you’re looked upon for things,” said Ziegler, who describes his leadership style as a mix between being vocal when necessary and also leading by example. “A big thing is learning your team’s attitude (and) knowing when you’re able to jump on them. You don’t want to get on a guy that will get down from it. It’s different for every person.”

“Anytime you move into a role like that, it’s a learning process,” added Friedman. “Ethan has steadily grown as a leader. Those are skills that he’s learned in the game of basketball that can serve him well in life.”

Another lesson he picked up and applied was the importance of working hard in practice. Ziegler had always seen the past seniors exert a lot of effort in practice, and a tough stretch near the end of the regular season demonstrated why that work ethic was valuable. Going hard in practice motivated the other players to increase their output and kept the team moving in a positive direction despite the losses. Zielger thinks that’s what eventually turned things around to get the Jeeps into Friday’s sectional semifinal round.

“By them going hard in practice, and I felt like I had to do that,” he said. “You can’t get negative in practice. You have to stay positive with everything. When we were losing games it was very hard. (We) just had to keep on grinding. That’s why I think we’re in a good position now.”

Ziegler said he’s come a long way from his freshman days and has learned a lot about life through the sport of basketball. While he hopes to keep on playing for a few more games and finish his career as a sectional champion, Ziegler believes the lessons he’s learned from becoming a leader will stay with him for the rest of his life and propel him forward in whatever he chooses to pursue long after he leaves the basketball court.

“I’ve matured so much,” he said. “All the knowledge I’ve gained for life and adulthood, you can use it in so many fields. There’s not a lot of things that will give you that experience like high school basketball. Every time you perform you have over a thousand fans looking at you, and you have to perform. When you don’t, you can’t sit there and blame other people (or) blame the refs. You have to learn to handle it in a great way, because you have eyes on you at all times. That’ll help me in any field I go into."

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