DURHAM, N.C. – Zion Williamson will leave Duke after a high-flying season to enter the NBA draft.
Widely projected as the top overall pick in the June draft, the AP national player of the year announced his decision on Monday.
Williamson of 6 feet 7, 285 pounds captivated all college basketball with his athletic extravaganza once in a generation, his energy on both ends of the floor and his omnipresent charisma.
The Atlantic Coast Conference player and rookie of the year averaged 22.6 points (tied for the league lead with teammate RJ Barrett) and 8.9 rebounds. Along the way, he became the face of college basketball this season, and usually appears with at least one repeat play and one dunk for each game.
His decision to become a professional was not a surprise. In fact, he spent the season heading to the NBA talks with a playful wink and nod of approval.
He said it would be "foolish" to play in a hypothetical New York Knicks team with Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant. Upon hearing that LeBron James and Stephen Curry were talking about him during the All-Star weekend, he replied that "he hopes to be competing against them next year."
During his only college season, he helped the Blue Devils get the top spot in the Top 25 AP final and the first place in the NCAA tournament. Duke was eliminated by Michigan State in the Eastern Regional Final.
Now that he is heading to the NBA, a key subplot to follow is which shoe company will get his backing.
In one of the characteristic moments of the season, Williamson blew his left Nike shoe, PG 2.5, the characteristic shoe of Oklahoma City star Paul George, and twisted his right knee in the first minute of what became in a defeat at home of rival North Carolina.
The impact was immediate: the price of Nike shares was affected the next day, and the footwear company sent a team of representatives to the campus to investigate. When Williamson returned approximately three weeks later for the ACC Tournament, he wore a pair of modified Nikes of size 15 on the Irving signature line, an All Star of the Boston Celtics and a former Duke player.
Williamson joins Cam Reddish and Barrett as partners in the 2019 Class of professionals after one season. Owner Tre Jones says he will return to school for his second year.
Originally, he declared himself ready for the 2019 NBA draft through a video he shared on the Instagram social network.