Throughout his lone season at Duke, Zion Williamson was viewed as the clear-cut first overall selection in the 2019 NBA Draft. However, his decision to leave college after one season wasn’t as cut and dry as many would have believed for Williamson‘s path to the NBA as he nearly decided to stay for his sophomore year at Duke. That almost came to fruition, but he was convinced to leap to the next level by taking advantage of his prime position. Here’s what put Williamson in the league now, and not in a year.
Zion Williamson’s lone season at Duke
Williamson entered his freshman year at Duke with plenty of hype around him after his well-documented high school basketball career. He was one of the most tantalizing players who is freakishly athletically gifted with the obvious talent that could one day translate to the NBA.
That led to him putting forth a remarkable campaign at Duke as he became the consensus National College Player of the Year and First-Team All-American. He also earned ACC Athlete of the Year, ACC Player of the Year, and ACC Rookie of the Year, among others. Williamson was a game-changing talent on the floor behind his explosive play that saw him put together one of the most memorable collegiate seasons.
All of that further cemented Williamson‘s status as a shoo-in to be the No.1 overall pick in the 2019 NBA Draft, but it was a decision to leave that he nearly decided to pass on for another year.
What convinced Zion Williamson to leave Duke
Despite all the success and apparent signs that jumping to the NBA would be next in his cards, Williamson almost balked at that decision following his freshman year.
There was some lingering chatter that he was considering staying another season at Duke, which he confirmed on The JJ Redick Podcast. However, it was his parents, teammates, and Coach K that pushed him to declare for the 2019 NBA Draft.
“I wanted to go back. Nobody ever believes me. They think I’m just saying that. I genuinely wanted to go back. I felt like the NBA wasn’t going anywhere. The money thing, that’s money. I don’t play this for money. I play this because I genuinely love the game. I just loved my experience at Duke so much that I wanted to stay.”
Williamson has a genuine affinity for playing at the collegiate level that could have seen him return for another year. Things were stacked too much in his favor to pass up going into the NBA now as he ran the risk of possible injury or another mishap that could have impacted that next year.
If the situation was a bit different, it could have easily seen Williamson back for another collegiate season to get the most out of his experience at that level before heading to the NBA. Instead, he was in a situation where it was too good to hold off for one more year.
Zion Williamson made the right decision
Although it’s clear that he enjoyed his brief time at Duke, it was time for him to take his talents to the next level. He had secured his status as being the top pick in the draft, which is something that wasn’t entirely guaranteed as injuries are always a possibility.
Leave no doubt, it would have been a highly entertaining sophomore campaign, but he had to take advantage of the situation ahead of him in the NBA. It’s time in his basketball career that will always look back at wishing he had a bit more time there, but he certainly made the most of it all.
Williamson is now moving forward into what could be an extremely promising NBA career with the New Orleans Pelicans.