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Tennessee basketball gives back through 'Hoops for Hope' event

Athletes with Down Syndrome shared the court with Vols and Lady Vols at Farragut High School on Saturday.

FARRAGUT, Tenn. — Tennessee basketball partnered with the Down Syndrome Awareness Group of East Tennessee for the first "Hoops for Hope" event in three years at Farragut High School on Saturday afternoon.

The event was canceled for the past two years because of the pandemic. Vol senior Josiah-Jordan James took part in the event as a freshman, and he was excited to see it come back.

"They left an impact on my life that I'll never forget," James said. "They teach us so many life lessons. They're such great people and such great human beings."

It was a new experience for most Tennessee basketball players, and sophomore guard Zakai Zeigler embraced the opportunity to give back to the community that has shown him and his family so much love over the past year.

"It just means the world, and I hope that we can bring them as much joy as they bring us," Zeigler said.

Zeigler was also given the role of PA announcer and introduced the players participating in the event, and he said it was like he was introducing an NBA starting lineup.

Every Lady Vol taking part in the event was a first-timer since the team was in Europe when current seniors would have been freshmen. Sophomore Marta Suarez said this event was a way to give the game a little more purpose.

"Since we're in the gym so much, sometimes basketball can feel a little bit more like a job," Suarez said. "This just reminds us that it's a game. It's very refreshing."

"Hoops for Hope" was started in 2007, and Tennessee athletics hopes there will be no scheduling conflicts in the way of the team taking part again next year.

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