MORGANTOWN — Jo Zini has a new look, and he’s excited to show it off.
The all-state honoree recently finished up his high school basketball career at Trinity Christian by leading the school to a Class A state tournament semifinal appearance, leaving a permanent legacy.
However, all good things must come to an end, and Zini is trading in the Warriors’ red and gold for some Presidents red and black, as he signed his letter of intent Wednesday to play basketball at NCAA Division III Washington and Jefferson.
“When my dad and I went up there for a visit, we got all decked out. It feels great,” Zini said. “I’ve been wearing Trinity gear my whole life and it’s kind of refreshing to put on new colors to rep.”
Zini said the choice came down in large part to two factors, the first of which was the environment surrounding his new team and campus.
“A lot of it just went into how comfortable I felt there. I went on a couple visits and it just felt like home there,” he said. “The coaches did a wonderful job of making me feel welcome.”
Of course, as a standout scholar in the classroom, Zini had to make sure that he chose a school where the academics were the right fit as well.
Fortunately for him, W&J is renowned in the classroom.
“At the same time, it’s easily the number one academic school on my list. You can’t go wrong there, because the ball has to stop bouncing sometime,” Zini said. “Academics played a huge role; I worked my butt off senior year to raise my grades up. Academics are always something where I’ve strived to be the best I can be, and it’ll really push me.”
It won’t just be in the classroom where he will excel, though, as he is widely regarded throughout the state as a top recruit in his class, and spent the last two years turning the heads of coaches, fans and opponents alike.
“Jo was the glue type of player. He did a little bit of everything. He could score, he could rebound and he led. Obviously, by leading Trinity to the state tournament he showed the type of kid he is,” said Ronnie Nuzum, Zini’s head coach with the West Virginia Reign Elite. “He’s the type of kid every program needs and wants. He was never a problem; you never have to worry about him working hard. He’s a kid you’ll miss, and he was a pleasure to have in the program.”
It goes further than work ethic and leadership, though. Nuzum describes Zini as an “extension of the coach on the floor,” noting his high basketball IQ and uncanny ability as a floor general.
“I don’t have to direct as much. I can kind of sit back and watch because I know he’ll get players in the right position and do the right things, and the other kids on the floor will follow and also do the right things,” he said.
Though Zini will be missed by his teams both at the prep and AAU levels, Nuzum is excited to see his machine churn out another kid ready to make a splash at the collegiate level.
“This is what we do. It was the goal in the beginning when he came to us, it’s what we expected,” he said. “This is what our program is about; we knew he could play at the next level, and as a program, we were happy to help make it happen.”
Now that the ink has touched the paper, all that’s left is for Zini to grind and prepare to do what he does best on and off the hardwood at his new home.
“It’s honestly just the same as it’s always been; I don’t have any specific goals right now, but I hope to come in and make an impact off the court and strive for a 4.0 in the classroom my first semester,” Zini said.
“I just want to be the best Joseph Zini I can be.”