No. 4 Duke’s time without national player of the year candidate Zion Williamson is nearing its end.
Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said Monday that Williamson has entered the final phase of his recovery from a sprained knee, meaning his return to game action could come as soon as this week.
Krzyzewski did not rule out Williamson playing in Tuesday night’s home finale against Wake Forest at 7 p.m.
“There’s no decision,” Krzyzewski said. “It is still day-to-day. But he’s in phase four of the four-phase program. It’s just a matter of how long he stays in it. We feel comfortable. He had a good day of therapy and band work and conditioning (on Sunday).”
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Whether or not Williamson plays against the struggling Demon Deacons (11-17, 4-12 ACC), the chances grow stronger that he’ll be on the court when Duke plays at No. 3 North Carolina on Saturday night in the final regular-season game for the two rivals.
The 6-7, 285-pound Williamson, who averages 21.6 points and 8.8 rebounds per game, played just 36 seconds in UNC’s 88-72 win over Duke on Feb. 20 at Cameron Indoor Stadium. Williamson injured his right knee when his left shoe ripped open as he attempted a pivot move with the ball.
Williamson hobbled to the bench and later to the locker room where he was diagnosed with a grade one (mild) sprain of his right knee.
Duke (25-4, 13-3 ACC) has listed Williamson has day-to-day ever since. He’s been on the bench, but not in uniform, for the Blue Devils’ last three games -- a 75-65 win at Syracuse, a 77-72 loss to Virginia Tech and an 87-57 home win over Miami.
Recovery time for a grade one sprain is around two weeks, so Williamson is right on schedule for a return to practice and games.
Krzyzewski said Saturday Williamson was moving well but the final phase for him to pass included practicing in full contact situations.
“Zion, he’s an exquisite athlete,” Krzyzewski said. “Not like -- there aren’t people like him, athletically. So he has to be 100 percent so that -- his body has always responded instinctively to how his mind and heart feel. His body then, we’ve seen it. You can’t put him out there with any less than that. You cannot. You cannot. And we won’t. We won’t. But it’s getting better.”