Duke

What does Zion Williamson’s addition mean for Duke?

Zion Williamson explains Coach K’s unique pitch, the art of in-game highlight dunks

Duke Blue Devils men’s basketball commit Zion Williamson explains how Coach K secured the five-star from South Carolina.
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Duke Blue Devils men’s basketball commit Zion Williamson explains how Coach K secured the five-star from South Carolina.

The experts sure had it wrong this time.

Zion Williamson, the No. 3 recruit in the Class of 2018, is not heading to Clemson, nor is he heading to Kentucky, UNC, South Carolina or Kansas.

He’s going to Duke. Williamson’s addition gives Duke the top three recruits in the Class of 2018 and what will immediately be one of the best teams in the country next season.

Williamson’s decision was one of the most highly anticipated decisions this year. The 6-6, 272-pound forward, who plays for Spartanburg (S.C.) Day, is one of the most popular high school basketball players in the country.

Crowds regularly pack his games. His dunks often go viral. He’s been compared athletically to LeBron James. Most recruiting experts had him going to Clemson. Of the 26 experts who made predictions, 85 percent predicted Williamson was heading to Clemson, according to 247sports’ Crystal Ball. Only four percent said Duke.

What does this mean for Duke?

1. Well, a lot of skill on the court at once. Duke boasts the top three players in the Class of 2018, and the No. 8 recruit in the country as well. Just like this year, Duke will have a lot of offensive firepower with Williamson, R.J. Barrett (6-7, 200 pounds), Cameron Reddish (6-7, 211 pounds) and Tre Jones (6-2, 175 pounds). The latter three all signed with Duke during college basketball’s early signing period.

It has worked this year for Duke, which is 17-2 and ranked No. 5 in the country.

2. Expect more top recruiting classes in the near future. Duke has always been one of the better recruiting schools in the country, but over the last five years, the Blue Devils have dominated in the one-and-done era. Duke will almost surely finish the season with the No. 1 ranked recruiting class in the country for the third straight year, and four out of the last five years.

That is only expected to continue, as future recruits continue to notice Duke’s success with recruiting the best players. They notice how they fare at the next level. And so far, those top recruits who have gone through Duke on the way to the NBA have gone on to do pretty well.

3. Duke’s team will look a lot different next year. Usually when you get such a great class, that means you’re expecting a good amount of turnover. Most of Duke’s current top players are projected to go in the first round of the NBA draft this year. So as the older class leaves, the new recruits will arrive. Some people may not like that, but that’s what happens as more recruits start to see the success others are having after staying only one year.

4. Duke likely won’t be the inside-out team it is this year. This year, Duke looks for its two big men in the post – Marvin Bagley III and Wendell Carter Jr. – and works its way out.

The four players Duke has grabbed in this class can handle the ball really well. All are 6-7 or shorter and play the wing. So next year’s team will likely start outside and then move in.

5. A lot of highlights, huge dunks, and continued sold-out crowds. Again, Williamson is one of the most electrifying players in the country. He said in a blog last year for USA Today, that Duke’s coach Mike Krzyzewski told him that he would play him like he did NBA superstar James in the Olympics for Team USA. During the 2012 Olympics in London, James started with Kevin Durant, who both play the same position in the NBA, and played the stretch-four position. He was one of Team USA’s top players in 2012 en route to a gold medal.

Williamson’s athleticism cannot be matched. You’ll likely see a lot of alley-oops to Williamson, Barrett and Reddish, and a lot of sold-out crowds on the road too.

Spartanburg Day senior Zion Williamson picks the Duke Blue Devils giving Coach K the top three high school recruits in 2018.

Jonathan M. Alexander: 919-829-4822, @jonmalexander

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