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From Z To Shining Z

The ACC’s history of players whose names start with Z

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Syracuse v Duke
DURHAM, NORTH CAROLINA - JANUARY 14: Oshae Brissett #11 ad Paschal Chukwu #13 of the Syracuse Orange defend Zion Williamson #1 of the Duke Blue Devils during a game at Cameron Indoor Stadium on January 14, 2019 in Durham, North Carolina. Syracuse won 95-91 in overtime.
Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images


No, not someone sleeping.

Not Zorro signing his name.

“Z” is the first initial of the basketball player fast becoming the most famous in college ball, touted as the likely top pick in the coming NBA draft, a phenomenon on and increasingly beyond the court.

Unlike anyone who’s passed recently through the ACC, right before our eyes Zion Williamson is becoming a brand unto himself. North Carolina’s Harrison Barnes tried to manufacture comparable notoriety earlier in the decade, even dubbing himself the “Black Falcon”, or some such – to little effect.

But Harrison didn’t have a transcendent or idiosyncratic game, not to mention the letter “Z” going for him which millions of people will soon associate with a single, very famous basketball player.

The letter actually has a distinguished history in the ACC, both as a first initial and to inaugurate a last name.

An ACC player of the year had a last name starting with Z (Tyler Zeller), as did a two-time conference scoring leader and three-time All-ACC selection (Butch Zatezalo). Duke had a Z-guy at center on a national championship squad (Brian Zoubek), and back in 2015 Notre Dame had a post player whose first name began with a Z on an ACC title-winning team (Zach Auguste).

A quick survey indicates there have been at least 21 Z-men in ACC history including Mr. Williamson. Five of 21 came through Duke, more than any other school: Williamson, Zoubek, Zeno Edwards (1972), Todd Zafirovski (2011-14) and Bill Zimmer (1965, 1966).

If we had to vote for the catchiest name in the group, we’d go with Clemson’s otherwise forgettable Zlatko Josic (1990). The 6-5 wing appeared in only five games, and missed all five shots he took.

Prominent ACC Players All-Time,
Name Starting with Letter Z
(Asterisk Indicates Made All-ACC)
Name, School Yrs Played
Zach Auguste, ND* 2014-16
Zion Williamson, D 2019
Butch Zatezalo, C* 1968-70
Tyler Zeller, NC* 2009-12
Zabian Dowdell, VT* 2005-07
Brian Zoubek, D 2007-10
Serge Zwikker, NC* 1994-97
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