With the 2019 NBA Draft quickly approaching, fans are itching to learn which team will land this year’s No. 1 pick. Tuesday night’s draft lottery will answer that question, but also may answer another — which team will draft Zion Williamson?
Most fans and experts are expecting Williamson, who recently completed his freshman year at Duke University, to be the first player selected in this year’s draft. The 18-year-old averaged 22.6 points, 8.9 rebounds, 2.1 steals and 1.8 blocks per game in what was a dominating freshman season before officially declaring for the draft back in April.
But this isn’t necessarily the exact path he planned on taking, nor does it seem to be his first choice. In an interview with Slam’s Franklyn Calle, Williamson made it clear just how much Duke has meant to him.
“I love Duke,” he said, “and honestly, I don’t want to leave.”
If there weren’t so much at stake, the college hoops star “probably” would have continued playing college ball another year. He even told critics urging him to leave the league back in March “Thanks, but no thanks,” setting his sights on an NCAA National Championship.
“Being at Duke was a dream come true for me,” he said, “Everything about it. Looking to the sidelines, ‘Whoa, that’s Coach K I’m playing for! Coach K is looking at me (and) telling me I’m built for this moment.’ I have a true brotherhood on and off the court. Everything was just a movie.”
He even called it “the best year of my life.”
But Williamson knows staying at Duke for another year is “just not the reality we live in” as he strives for the “ultimate” goal of playing in the NBA.
“It’s what I’ve been dreaming about as a kid so I have to pursue that. And I have to take care of my family.”
Williamson’s stepfather, Lee Anderson, said Zion “really didn’t want to say goodbye” to his family at Duke, but knew the time had come.
In the end, the young basketball star opted to follow the advice of those around him (including several of his college teammates, who told him to do what’s best for him and his family) and declared for the draft. While he’s thrilled at the thought of starting his NBA career, Williamson still holds a special place in his heart for the Blue Devils.
“I don’t want to leave. I love everything about Duke,” he said.” If people think I’m BS-ing or not telling the truth — that’s them.”
While basketball fans will learn which lucky team will land this year’s No. 1 pick Tuesday evening, they’ll still have plenty of time to wait before the actual NBA Draft kicks off June 20.
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