RJ Barrett Says Zion Williamson Injury Set Duke Back; Cam Reddish 'Shocked'

Scott Polacek@@ScottPolacekFeatured ColumnistFebruary 21, 2019

Duke's Zion Williamson sits on the floor following a injury during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game against North Carolina in Durham, N.C., Wednesday, Feb. 20, 2019. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)
Gerry Broome/Associated Press

The Duke Blue Devils never recovered from losing freshman Zion Williamson in the first minute of Wednesday's 88-72 loss to the North Carolina Tar Heels, and their other potential top-10 picks discussed the injury with ESPN's Maria Taylor.

RJ Barrett, who finished with 33 points and 13 rebounds, said he initially thought Williamson was going to return and admitted the knee injury set the team back. Cam Reddish, who added 27 points, said he was "shocked" by the development:

ESPN @espn

RJ Barrett and Cam Reddish talked postgame about Zion's injury and how it changed the game. (via @MariaTaylor) https://t.co/KkVPVFCfbP

Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski told reporters the injury was a "mild knee sprain" that was "stable," although the team won't have a timetable for his return until Thursday.

Williamson suffered the injury when he planted his foot with the ball in his hands and his left shoe ripped open. While he walked off the court under his own power and went to the locker room, he never re-entered the game.

Barrett's recognition that it set the team back came to fruition on both ends of the floor. The Blue Devils so often rely on Williamson's athleticism and ability to block shots and cut off penetration on the defensive side and had no answers for Luke Maye. The North Carolina senior targeted smaller defenders, including Barrett, and finished with 30 points and 15 rebounds.

Offensively, Barrett and Reddish were the only Duke players to score more than six points.

Offensive depth figures to be a concern for the Blue Devils until Williamson is able to return, as Barrett and Reddish are the only ones on the team outside of No. 1 to average more than 8.7 points per game. After Tre Jones, there aren't even any other players who average more than 5.7 a night.

Opposing defenses will be able to direct the majority of their attention toward Barrett and Reddish and slow the nation's top-ranked team down come March if Williamson is still sidelined. The Blue Devils likely need their premier playmaker back and healthy if they are going to eventually cut down the nets as champions.