For more than two years, the basketball world has been waiting for the phenom that is Zion Williamson to arrive. But if Duke Men’s Basketball’s Canadian exhibition tour has shown anything, it is that Williamson has not arrived… because he is still getting even better.
Williamson has been a stable in YouTube highlight reels across the country since he was a sophomore in high school, as his 6’7,” 285-pound frame also sports absurd athletic ability. After setting the country alight with his high-flying exploits, however, most basketball fans knew him solely for that purpose…dunking.
But after an impressive series of performances in Canada, Williamson showed a glimpse of what he could be as a more well-rounded player, notions which should terrify the rest of the country. The freshman had already asserted his will when he broke the Duke vertical leap record back in July. Now, having seen what he can do on the court alongside top recruit R.J. Barrett, it is time to recognize that this young man can be truly special.
While Williamson was known mostly for his athletic prowess, Barrett–the no. 1 recruit in the class of 2018–was viewed as the total package. Yet it was Williamson who was on full display in the Blue Devils’ first game against Ryerson University. Zion posted 29 points and 13 rebounds, but perhaps most notably showed his range with the jumper as he knocked down three of his four three-point tries. He also added four assists and two blocks.
Not only did Williamson dominate every facet of the game, but the ferocity with which he played was evident from the opening tip. What is now a trademark primal scream was present after every big tip-back dunk or ridiculous offensive rebound. In fact, watch his pursuit of the ball in this package below, and the ridiculous length and reach he shows as he goes up for the board (1:20 mark):
Williamson did not even commit a single turnover the entire game, despite showing a clear willingness to push the tempo and bring the ball up the court himself in transition and leading fast breaks.
The shooting may loom as a larger issue moving forward, as Williamson was just 6-12 from the free throw line over the course of the tour while also missing his next four three-point attempts after his debut against Ryerson.
Yet Williamson’s clear determination to showcase every aspect of his game bodes well for Duke, as does his apparent willingness to set any semblance of ego aside and trust Mike Krzyzewski to help foster his game. If he and Barrett flash the same level of chemistry that they had in Canada–particularly given Williamson’s ability to pass the ball–this Duke team is going to turn heads all season long. Oh, and they played the entire tour without fellow freshman studs Cam Reddish and Tre Jones.
Regardless of total team makeup, however, one thing is very evident. Runway Zion is cleared for takeoff, and it seems as though he does not plan on landing anytime soon.