Zion Williamson and JJ Redick may not seem like they have much in common. One is a highly talented rookie, while the other is a seasoned veteran. One is a highly skilled big man; the other is an undersized sharp-shooting guard. Yet the two Pelicans players have one strong bond: They both spent their college careers with the Duke Blue Devils.
Williamson recently made his very first podcast appearance on The JJ Redick Podcast With Tommy Alter. The two touched on their history at Duke and the differences between college and pro basketball. Let’s look at what each of these players accomplished at Duke, as well as what Williamson identified as the biggest difference between Duke and the NBA.
JJ Redick’s Duke career
Redick spent four years at Duke. Right from the start, he was an impactful player. As a freshman, he averaged 15 points a game to go along with 2.5 rebounds and two assists. At that point, Redick was already an excellent shooter, averaging almost 40% from the three-point line in his first year.
Redick’s numbers remained about the same in his sophomore year. But he really broke out as a junior, when his scoring average shot up to 21.8 points. That was also the first season Redick broke the 40% barrier from the three-point line. He led the team in scoring and ultimately won both AAC Player of the Year and National Player of the Year.
Redick continued to improve his senior year, shooting a blistering 42.1% from three and putting up 26.8 points per game. By the end of his college career, he’d racked up two first-team All-American selections, two AAC Player of the Year awards, two first-team All-ACC awards, and two AAC tournament MVPs. In 2007, Duke even retired Redick’s jersey.
Zion Williamson’s Duke career
Williamson’s Duke career was short compared to Redick’s, although he was no less impactful during his lone Blue Devils season. He averaged 22.6 points, 8.9 rebounds, 2.1 assists, 2.1 steals, and 1.8 blocks per game. The North Carolina native was also dominant in the postseason, although the Blue Devils ultimately lost to Michigan State in the Elite 8 round.
Many people assume Williamson’s transition to the NBA was a foregone conclusion after his obligatory one year in college. Yet one of the interesting things that came up on the podcast was the fact that Williamson “genuinely wanted to go back” to Duke for a second season.
He put off the decision until the last possible day when a heartfelt conversation with his mother finally convinced him that entering the NBA draft was the best move.
The biggest difference between college and the NBA
So what did Williamson identify as the biggest difference between college and NBA hoops? The preparation. Williamson observed that in college basketball everything is organized, from eating breakfast to traveling to the arena.
In the NBA, by contrast, players must take responsibility for governing their own time. Williamson specifically brought up Redick as an example. He cited Redick’s dedication to spending time stretching in the weight room, whereas other players may simply loaf around until game time.
From all accounts, Redick has proved to be a helpful role model for the budding superstar. While Williamson doesn’t need much help improving his on-court game, a mentor like Redick can have a huge impact on the young athlete’s approach to all other aspects of NBA life.
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