The last of Duke’s freshmen to declare for the NBA figures to be the first one drafted come June.
On Monday, Zion Williamson followed through with his plans to enter the NBA Draft after his one, stellar season with the Blue Devils.
After averaging 22.6 points and 8.9 rebounds per game for the Blue Devils, Williamson won both ACC and national player of the year awards. He made his announcement to leave for the NBA from St. Louis, where he’s receiving the Oscar Robertson Award for national player of the year at Monday night’s U.S. Basketball Writers Association banquet.
The 6-7, 285-pound Williamson, who came to Duke from Spartanburg, S.C., is projected to be the No. 1 pick in the draft by numerous draft analysts.
In a post on Instagram, where he has 3.1 million followers, Williamson thanked Duke and said he “will pursue his next dream” by entering the NBA.
“I just want to say thank you,” Williamson said. “Thank you for making this season a dream for me and the best year of my life. Everything about this team was special, and learning from Coach K was a blessing. He taught me so much about the game of basketball. Growing up as a kid in South Carolina, I never thought I would have the opportunity to play at Duke. Now I will pursue my next dream and declare for the 2019 NBA Draft.”
He joins RJ Barrett and Cam Reddish in giving up his final three years of eligibility at Duke to turn professional. They were three of the four freshmen starters the Blue Devils used while going 32-6 and winning the ACC championship this season. All three freshmen are projected to be selected among the draft’s top 10 picks. The fourth, point guard Tre Jones, announced his intent to return for his sophomore season.
In his lone college season, Williamson swept the six national player of the year awards recognized by the NCAA: Wooden, Naismith, NABC, Oscar Robertson, AP and Basketball Times.
“Zion has won every player of the year award, and rightfully so,” Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said in a statement. “He was truly spectacular and humble in the way he handled everything. He represented our program and our university in the best possible manner. He at 18 years old, to be performing at this level, and to express himself in such a humble and unique way, is remarkable. His family has been with us every step of the way, and Zion had a remarkable season.”
Williamson entered Duke with a reputation as a prodigious dunker, with his high school highlight videos drawing millions of views and followers on social media.
He proved to be that and much more.
In addition to his points and rebounds, he led Duke in steals (70) and blocked shots (59) despite missing five games and all but 36 seconds of another due to a sprained right knee. Williamson made 68 percent of his shots, including 33.8 percent of his 3-pointers.
In addition to being voted the ACC’s player of the year, he made the first-team all-ACC team as well as the league’s all-defensive team.
Along the way, he and the Blue Devils played in front of celebrities including former President Barack Obama, NBA superstar LeBron James and rapper and music executive Jay-Z.
It made for quite a season and Williamson said “exceeded my expecations.”
“Everything about this season was crazy,” Williamson said during an interview on St. Louis radio station WXOS-FM Monday night. “Just when I thought anything couldn’t get crazier, something else would happen. Barack pulling up to a game. LeBron. Road games being sold out.”