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Zion Williamson Picks Duke


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Duke Countdown To Craziness Photo by Lance King/Getty Images

Well we’re stunned. What can you say? We really didn’t see it coming. Like everyone else, we thought that he was going to be a Clemson Tiger.

Let’s preface this a bit by saying that after getting suckered by Harrison Barnes we really quit watching these sorts of announcements. We watch occasionally but mostly that kind of took the fun out of it.

For those who don’t remember, Barnes seemed destined for Duke. We followed that really closely and the same thing we kept hearing, and strikingly from several different people was this: if he’s who he says he is he’ll be at Duke.

So when he Skyped Ol’ Roy to tell him he was coming to UNC (“well alright!” said Roy) we swore it all off. Not so much because of the decision but because we felt suckered into something that seemed interminable and that ended with a Skype call. Toss in the hour-long Tony Parker Me-athon that preceded his commitment to UCLA and that was more than enough.

Still, it’s impossible to not watch sometimes and this turned into one of those. But like everyone else, we assumed it was going to be Clemson. Then for one ugly moment we thought no, this is leading up to Kentucky. He’s going to pull out Wildcat hat. Somehow we never really thought he was going to choose Low Integrity UNC and Kansas never seemed possible.

Earlier in the evening we were trying to read the tea leaves and saw somewhere that his mother really liked Duke and Coach K. And last night we mentioned that one analyst saw it as 50-50 between Duke and Clemson.

Even so, when he said the word “brotherhood” for a minute it went over our head. What did he just say? Huh? And then he put his Duke hat on.

And while we were thrilled, honestly part of us felt bad for Clemson. We know how close they were to the biggest recruit in their history and that it had to be enormously deflating. We like Brad Brownell and admire his program. It’s tough-minded, he does a lot with less talent than most ACC schools and he’s worked that kid forever. It’s like Lucy just yanked the football away from Charlie Brown. It has to hurt.

On the bright side, it has to hurt UNC and Kentucky too so there’s that.

So now that Duke has the #1, #2, #3 and #10 players in the class, what to do with it all?

Well it’s going to be fun.

Tre Jones is the most certain in one sense. He’ll be the point guard. Cameron Reddish, JR Barrett and Williamson are all going to have multiple uses and their roles will be flexible.

Reddish and Barrett can all play at least three positions, conceivably four and Williamson could probably play four and he could probably play point guard in a pinch.

You wouldn't necessarily want him to, but he probably could. He’s certainly athletic enough.

Offensively those three can all drive and shoot. Defensively they could be incredible. Duke will give up some size compared to this year but the versatility next season is going to be stunning. And don't overlook the improvements we’ll see from guys like Alex O’ Connell and Javin DeLaurier and Marques Bolden, not to mention Justin Robinson, who will benefit from the daily competition. Duke will return a bunch of guys who have experience in the system and who can help teach the freshmen.

There’s no denying that what excites everyone about Williamson is his athleticism and his ability to take the ball to the basket. He’s built much like Durham native and former Wake Forest star Rodney Rogers but he's vastly more athletic. He’s more like a bigger Charles Barkley except without the teeny tiny hands.

Having the firepower around him will allow Duke to run and will allow Williamson to charge the basket. Rogers had the nickname the Durham Bull. That may be taken now by Williamson.

It’s a spectacular class to be sure but as we all pinch ourselves, let’s remember that classes are not measured going in but rather going out. Williamson, Barrett, Reddish and Jones are all immensely promising but let’s see what they do before we get too excited.

Oh the heck with that. You’re excited. So are we. What a fun day this was!

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