College try: Zion relishing Duke life before NBA
DURHAM, N.C. — As the “Quit Tryin’, Draft Zion” bandwagon builds steam in the NBA, Duke superstar freshman Zion Williamson said he’s just enjoying his ride in college.
Williamson, who scored 29 points in the No. 2 Blue Devils’ 91-61 win over St. John’s on Saturday, said he can’t help but imagine what the future holds, but he’s in no rush to make it a reality.
“You do think about it, but this is the only time I get to experience college,” Williamson said. “And even if I could’ve went straight from high school [to the NBA], I would’ve come to college. I feel like college is something I couldn’t miss out on.”
Williamson’s performance — Saturday was his 10th game with 25 or more points this season, the most ever by a Duke freshman — has earned rave reviews from scouts, while his highlight-reel dunks made him a household name even before he arrived on Duke’s campus.
The combination of skill and celebrity has made him unique, even in a sport with its share of talented one-and-done players dealing with a layover in college.
“The world has changed in the last couple years, and nobody brought in the exposure that he’s brought in,” coach Mike Krzyzewski said. “He had a million, two million followers [on social media] before he ever got here. When’s that happen? But it’s happening for him. And we’re so high profile, that everything is scrutinized. And his play is looked at by everybody. The thing about that kid is, he doesn’t want all that attention, and he handles it so well.”
Williamson was alerted after Saturday’s game to a New York newspaper back page, which featured an edited image of stars Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant, along with himself, in Knicks jerseys, and even he couldn’t help but smile about the potential.
“I mean, it would be dope to play with KD and Kyrie, but whichever team drafts me, I’ll be ready to play hard and work,” he said.
Williamson said he’s appreciative of fans who are eager to see him play for their favorite NBA team, but he’s reiterated numerous times that his time at Duke is something he cherishes.
Williamson’s teammate, RJ Barrett, is also considered a top NBA draft pick, and he largely echoed the comments.
“I try to stay where I’m at and be in the moment, enjoy winning with my brothers,” said Barrett, who claims he doesn’t watch TV and hasn’t followed any of the NBA draft talk. “When the season’s over, I’ll think of everything else.”
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