Coach K: 'No Discussion' of Shutting Down Zion Williamson After Knee Injury

Mike Chiari@mikechiariFeatured ColumnistFebruary 24, 2019

Duke's Zion Williamson speaks with coach Mike Krzyzewski during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against Princeton in Durham, N.C., Tuesday, Dec. 18, 2018. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)
Gerry Broome/Associated Press

Duke head men's basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski said Saturday he has had no conversations with Zion Williamson about shutting down the superstar freshman for the remainder of the season.

After No. 1 Duke beat Syracuse 75-65 on the road without Williamson on Saturday, Coach K addressed the media and discussed the importance of making sure the standout big man is healthy before he returns, according to ESPN.com's Myron Medcalf:

"We would never play a kid who's not ready. We would never play a youngster who didn't want to play. It's not about that. He wants to play. He loves being at Duke. He doesn't like being injured. It's an injury you can get over in a shorter period of time. There's just a protocol that we have to go through to make sure he's completely ready. We're not rushing anything, so that's why we said day-to-day because it's literally day-to-day."

Williamson left in the opening seconds of Wednesday's 88-72 loss to North Carolina with what Krzyzewski called a "mild knee sprain."

While Williamson hasn't said anything to suggest he's considering sitting out the rest of the season, it has become a hot-button media issue since he is the favorite to go No. 1 overall in the 2019 NBA draft.

College football players have sat out bowl games to avoid injury and prepare for the NFL draft in recent years, but that hasn't been the case in college basketball.

It is unclear when Williamson will be healthy enough to return—provided he plans to—but Duke showed Saturday it's capable of winning without him in a tough road environment. Freshman RJ Barrett put up 30 points, seven assists and five rebounds in the win, while sophomore guard Alex O'Connell added 20 points and five assists.

Williamson is Duke's second-leading scorer with 21.6 points per game, and he leads the team with 8.8 rebounds and 2.2 steals per contest, while adding 2.2 assists and 1.8 blocks.

Assuming Williamson is ready to play by the NCAA tournament in March, the Blue Devils figure to be the favorites to win the national championship, which is something they haven't done since 2015.

Since Duke is in good shape to nab a No. 1 seed and showed Saturday that it has a strong roster outside Williamson, Coach K can afford to take a cautious approach with his star player.