COMMENTARY

To Duke or not to Duke?

If he only plays 1 year at Duke, could Zion have had greater impact at a state school?

BY DENNIS BRUNSON
dennis@theitem.com
Posted 1/25/18

First things first.

This is not written in any way to denigrate Zion Williamson for his decision to play college basketball at Duke University. The 6-foot-6-inch phenom from Spartanburg Day School laid out his reasons for going to arguably the …

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COMMENTARY

To Duke or not to Duke?

If he only plays 1 year at Duke, could Zion have had greater impact at a state school?

Spartanburg Day's Zion Williamson (12) flies in for a shot over Christian Academy's Jaylen Matthews (12) during last year's SCISA 2A state basketball tournament at the Sumter County Civic Center. Williamson and the Griffins won the title. RIGHT: Williamson winds up for a monster dunk, a scene sure to repeat itself at this year's tournament, which gets underway on Feb. 16.
Spartanburg Day's Zion Williamson (12) flies in for a shot over Christian Academy's Jaylen Matthews (12) during last year's SCISA 2A state basketball tournament at the Sumter County Civic Center. Williamson and the Griffins won the title. RIGHT: Williamson winds up for a monster dunk, a scene sure to repeat itself at this year's tournament, which gets underway on Feb. 16.
SUMTER ITEM FILE PHOTOS
Posted

First things first.

This is not written in any way to denigrate Zion Williamson for his decision to play college basketball at Duke University. The 6-foot-6-inch phenom from Spartanburg Day School laid out his reasons for going to arguably the best program in the country for the past four decades in eloquent fashion.

While it hurt instate college basketball fans that he turned down both South Carolina and Clemson - especially the Tiger fans who had heard from most of the recruiting pundits that Clemson would be his choice -- he isn't the first big-time instate recruit to do so and he certainly won't be the last. In reality, he owes nothing to those schools and he spoke highly of both of them in their recruitment of him. His choice came about more because of Duke being Duke than anything USC or Clemson did wrong.

Which brings me to the point of this column.

If I were in Williamson's shoes and facing the same circumstances, I don't think I would have gone to a blue blood program like Duke or Kentucky. Thank goodness though that Williamson chose Duke over UK.

When you're predicted to be a one-and-done college player before moving on to the National Basketball Association, a player is going to have to have a tremendous impact to be remembered among the greats at a program with a pedigree like Duke's. That doesn't mean Williamson will not go down as one of the all-time greats at Duke, but there is a lot of greatness to which he will be compared, starting with the other three top 10 players in his recruiting class.

The real key to this thought process is Williamson's projected one-and-done status. If he had to remain in school for at least three years before entering the NBA, it would be a no-brainer. Go to Duke, get that tremendous education and have a shot at winning a national title each year you are there.

However, since you're going to have just one season of college on your resume, why not go to a school that if you lead it on a deep NCAA tournament run or to a national title, what you did will be remembered not just by the fans of that program but college fans in general?

That doesn't mean you go that program arrogantly and proclaim to be The Show or anything of the sort. In fact, based on the times I've heard Williamson speak and actually play basketball - not just putting on a dunking exhibition - he is the pretty close to the opposite of that.

Think about it though. If Williamson had selected Clemson or USC - or any other program where a player of his expected magnitude would have a tremendous affect - and took it to the Final Four, he would be placed on a pedestal.

And that still may happen for him with the Blue Devils. Before any of that takes place though, Sumterites need to prepare for his return to Sumter County Civic Center. The SCISA basketball state tournament will begin on Feb. 16 and run through Feb. 24 and Williamson will likely be around for four games in the 2A portion of the tournament like last year.

Duke or not, it will no doubt be quite the scene again.