The hype surrounding Zion Williamson has been steadily building for the last two years. On Wednesday, the phenom took the court in a college game for the first time when Duke traveled to Canada to begin a three-game preseason tour.
Williamson is the first true high school superstar of the social media era. Videos of his incredible dunking ability started gaining millions of views during his junior year, which coincided with his ascent up the recruiting rankings. He is a consensus top-five recruit entering Duke and could be a top-five NBA draft pick come June.
SB Nation has covered Williamson’s rise to fame extensively since his high school days. If you don’t know who he is already, it’s time to catch up. This is everything you need to know about Zion Williamson as he begins his freshman year at Duke.
Zion Williamson highlights from his first game with Duke
Zion Williamson finished with 29 points and hit three three-pointers as Duke won its game against Ryerson. Here are some highlights:
How old is Zion Williamson?
Williamson was born July 6, 2000. We have officially entered the age of basketball stars being born after the turn the millennium. Yes, you’re old.
Where’s Williamson from?
Spartanburg, South Carolina — population 37,000 — will forever be known as the home of Williamson.
He played his high school ball at Spartanburg Day School, a K-12 private school in the city. While other stars leave for basketball factory-style prep schools like Montverde, Oak Hill, and Findley Prep, Williamson decided to stay at home. He won two state championships in South Carolina with his high school team and was named the state’s Mr. Basketball earlier this year upon graduation.
His father was a former NC State football recruit and his mother was a DII sprinter.
What did Zion Williamson’s recruitment look like?
Duke was actually something of an upset pick for Williamson. Given his close ties to the state of South Carolina, most recruiting analysts believed he would pick Clemson.
Kansas, Kentucky, North Carolina, and South Carolina were the other finalists to land his commitment. We ranked Duke as the top spot for his services before he made his announcement.
Why did Williamson pick Duke?
Duke already had R.J. Barrett and Cam Reddish committed when Williamson was ready to make his announcement. When Williamson picked the Blue Devils, it gave one school the top-three incoming recruits for the first time in the modern history of college basketball.
Here’s how ESPN’s final class of 2018 recruiting rankings look entering the season:
Barrett and Reddish are guards, and Duke had an opening in the front court. When you factor the exposure a school like Duke can bring and the reputation it has earned for developing one-and-done lottery picks, the Blue Devils were an easy for Williamson.
So wait, how big is Zion Williamson?
Duke listed him at 6’7, 285 pounds. Only one NBA player currently weighs more, and that’s 7’3 Los Angeles Clippers center Boban Marjanovic.
This is in line with Williamson’s previous measurements. He was measured at 6’6, 272 pounds with a 6’10 wingspan at USA Basketball minicamp in October 2017.
And he can dunk from the free-throw line?
This is a totally legit free-throw line dunk:
He has done it multiple times this offseason:
Zion Williamson is out here making FREE THROW LINE DUNKS look easy.— SB Nation (@SBNation) June 28, 2018
zionlw10 | instagram pic.twitter.com/DQ12lskBzX
Being able to pull off free-throw line dunks at 285 pounds is absolutely ridiculous. Combining such raw power and athleticism is where Williamson’s appeal begins.
Show me some other cool Williamson dunks
There are so many good ones. Here are a few of our favorites:
It wasn’t from the free-throw line but this is still my favorite Zion Williamson dunk. pic.twitter.com/2HqpzYnvLO— David Astramskas (@redapples) August 15, 2018
Zion Williamson with the 360 pic.twitter.com/MRLTADaZ6K— Fan Allegiance (@FanAllegiance) January 25, 2018
Does he play defense?
This is one of the greatest blocks you will ever see at the high school level:
Pretty good one here, too:
Future Duke star Zion Williamson with a nasty block... pic.twitter.com/fVldSkzq1M— Sportsbet.com.au (@sportsbetcomau) February 21, 2018
What’s the Williamson scouting report?
Williamson is one of the most unique young players to enter the basketball pipeline in recent memory. Here is a quick scouting report as he arrives Duke:
- At 6’6 or 6’7 and 285 pounds, Williamson will spend the majority of his minutes at power forward with some spot minutes as a small ball center.
- He’s an elite athlete with explosive leaping ability to can make plays above the rim on both ends of the court.
- He’s a monster rebounder on both ends. He will be able to provide secondary rim protection, but lacks the length (6’10 length) to be a team’s main shot blocker. His lateral quickness and ability to defend guards on switches will be under a microscope at Duke.
- The biggest hole in his game is his jump shot. He’s a reluctant shooter from three-point range. It will be fascinating to see how many threes he takes and makes as a freshman at Duke.
- He’s a good ball handler and willing passer, a part of his game many people sleep on. It will be interesting to see how much he gets to handle the ball with Barrett and Reddish also in the lineup.
- His left-hand dominant and will need to continue to develop his right.
Where is he supposed to get drafted?
We had Williamson as the No. 5 overall pick in our first 2019 NBA mock draft. That makes him the third Duke player off the board after Reddish and Barrett, who are currently projected first and second.
Will his game translate to the NBA?
Williamson is going to be an extremely polarizing NBA prospect. On one hand: He has such a rare combination of explosiveness, strength and athleticism. He finishes everything inside with a dunk. He’s also a high-motor player who will get after it on the glass and competes defensively.
He also doesn’t have a reliable jump shot and is undersized for an NBA power forward or center.
The ideal way to use Williamson is to play him at the four, surround him with shooters on the wings, with a point guard who can facilitate out of the pick-and-roll and hit pull-up jumpers, with a center who can protect the rim and stretch the floor.
Williamson might be an awkward fit in the modern game, but his talent is so obvious and unique. We can’t wait to watch him play at Duke and beyond.