5-Star PF Zion Williamson Commits to Duke over Kentucky, More

Alec Nathan@@AlecBNathanFeatured ColumnistJanuary 21, 2018

Credit: Adidas (via 247Sports)

Duke University landed arguably the most compelling prospect in the country Saturday when 5-star power forward Zion Williamson announced he will suit up for the Blue Devils next season: 

Bleacher Report @BleacherReport

Zion has a new home! https://t.co/SP6X72P0vW

Thanks to that decision, Duke has the top three recruits in the class of 2018 with R.J. Barrett and Cameron Reddish already locked into futures as Blue Devils. 

The No. 3 prospect in the class of 2018, according to 247Sports' composite, Williamson burst onto the recruiting scene in 2016 and immediately caught the attention of the nation's biggest programs thanks to his flair for the spectacular in transition. 

A one-man wrecking crew when he gets a head of steam, Williamson stood out among his peers because of his ability to elevate high above the rim in the open floor: 

Bleacher Report @BleacherReport

Zion Williamson's in-game dunks are getting crazier & crazier 😳 (via AyyyeeItsFrank, @TelanteWebber, and taddhaislop/Instagram) https://t.co/iD8Q8R6bmS

However, it would be unfair to label the Spartanburg, South Carolina, native as simply a dynamic in-game dunker. 

While his athleticism shines brightest on the break, Williamson also proved he can carve out room and operate below the free-throw line thanks to his 6'6", 275-pound frame. 

That size also serves him well on defense, where he's able to climb the ladder and block shots or interject his long arms into passing lanes and create fast-break opportunities the other way. 

"He's not your prototypical guy, but he's similar to Draymond Green in that he could be multi-positional, except that Zion is way more athletic," 247Sports' Jerry Meyer said.

"You don't need a tape measure and a scale to determine if a player's good or not. Nobody's ever picked people for a pickup game by walking around and asking them their height and weight."

Penny Hardaway, meanwhile, saw a Hall of Famer and former NBA MVP as Wiliamson's best comparison. 

"He has a lot of Charles Barkley in him," Hardaway told SB Nation's Ricky O'Donnell. "He has a lot more athleticism on the court than Charles did, but his mannerisms on the court are similar."

If there's a knock on 2018's top-ranked power forward, it's that he still hasn't developed a consistent outside or mid-range jumper to complement his evolving dribble-drive and post-up game. 

Without a refined spot-up repertoire, defenses could be happy to sag off Williamson and give him space to operate above the free-throw line so they can pack the paint and prevent easy finishes at the rim. But now that Williamson is headed to Duke, he will have one of the nation's premier coaching staffs at his disposal as he seeks to become a top-flight draft prospect.

And if he can uncover a steadier shooting stroke as his freshman season progresses, Williamson should morph into the kind of player who can buoy the Blue Devils' national title hopes. 

But even if his shot doesn't round into form, Williamson is durable and athletic enough that head coach Mike Krzyzewski can deploy him primarily as a power forward who also helps out at the 5 while more conventional swingmen such as Reddish and Barrett hold down the fort on the perimeter. 


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