Coach K: Zion Williamson expected back for ACC tournament

Though he’s progressing toward a return to play for Duke this season, Zion Williamson will not play another game at Cameron Indoor Stadium.

The 6-7 freshman forward, sidelined since suffering a sprained knee on Feb. 20, didn’t play in No. 4 Duke’s 71-70 win over Wake Forest Tuesday night in its home finale.

The news on his injury is more and more encouraging, Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said after the game. Williamson returned to basketball activities on the practice court Tuesday for the first time since his injury.

Krzyzewski didn’t rule out Williamson returning for Saturday night’s regular-season finale at No. 3 North Carolina. But he said it’s more likely Williamson will return for Duke’s first ACC tournament game on March 14.

“He’s getting more confidence,” Krzyzewski said. “We just have to get him in shape. We’ll see. I don’t think he’d be ready for Saturday. I have to careful not to push this, to give him a chance to get in game shape. But I would be surprised if he wasn’t ready by the ACC tournament.”

Williamson, a national player of the year candidate who averages 21.6 points an 8.8 rebounds, has missed Duke’s last four games. He suffered the injury 36 seconds into the Blue Devils’ 88-72 loss to North Carolina at Cameron Indoor.

Krzyzewski said Monday Williamson entered the fourth phase of the four-step rehabilitation program he needs to complete before returning to play.

Krzyzewski admitted Williamson, projected as the possible No. 1 pick in the NBA Draft in June, would have liked to have played one more game at Cameron. But that wasn’t something the staff factored into Williamson’s recovery schedule.

“We’re not concerned about that,” Krzyzewski said. “He would like to play Saturday, too, if he’s ready. I’m not sure that he will be ready.”

Duke’s injury list grew beyond Williamson on Tuesday night during the Wake Forest game.

Junior center Marques Bolden suffered an injury in his upper leg area that caused him to limp to the locker room early in the second half. He returned to the bench but didn’t return to the game. He finished the game with four points and five rebounds in 18 minutes of play.

Freshman point guard Tre Jones also limped to the locker room in the second half after bumping his right knee. Jones returned to finish the game, scoring 13 points.

“His knee is going to be OK,” Krzyzewski said. “He bumped knees real hard. He had a little bump on it. I didn’t know if he would come back. He said, `I’m ready.’ And I said. ‘All right. You’re ready. You are going to play.’ The kid is a winner. He’s a winner.”

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An Illinois native, Steve Wiseman has covered Duke athletics since 2010 for the Durham Herald-Sun and Raleigh News & Observer. Prior to his arrival in Durham, he worked for newspapers in Columbia and Spartanburg, S.C., Biloxi, Miss., and Charlotte covering beats including the NFL’s Carolina Panthers and New Orleans Saints, University of South Carolina athletics and the S.C. General Assembly.