He’s superhuman. He’s able to do things normal humans can’t. He’s seminal to the success of Duke University’s basketball team and his name is Zion Williamson.
After being away from the team thanks to an ankle injury, Zion returned against Syracuse to show what Duke had been missing. But it was his performance last night against arch-rivals University of North Carolina Tar Heels that may stand as the defining moment of his Duke career. To be clear, Zion has already has several of these “career-defining” moments, but this one is different. That’s because his performance against North Carolina to send Duke to the final of the ACC Tournament was the first meaningful contribution in a rivalry that has come to define college basketball for decades.
Zion posted 31 points and 11 rebounds, one night after his return against Syracuse where he dropped 29 points and 14 rebounds. First impressions are that he’s fully recovered from the sprained ankle he suffered less than 40 seconds into his first matchup against the Tar Heels in February. But there’s more to understand with this performance.
What I mean is that, for the first time in Zion Williamson’s college career, he demonstrated the ability to carry his team to victory (he did score over a third of the team’s points). This obviously bodes well for his NBA career. Everyone already knew that Zion would fit in perfectly in the NBA game. That said, a question that has been at the back of every analyst’s mind swirled around whether he had the leadership gene. That question was resoundingly answered last night.
So what’s next for Zion? Well it obviously is the ACC Tournament final and, more importantly, the NCAA Tournament. As the consensus best player in college basketball and the surefire #1 pick in June’s NBA Draft, Zion Williamson only has to prove that he’s able to lead a team and that he possesses that oh-so-important clutch gene that virtually every NBA star is judged upon.
Simply put, if he has it already, he has the potential to lead Duke to a national championship and make the jump to the NBA as a perennial All-Star off the bat. If he doesn’t, it won’t have any bearing on him getting selected #1 overall in June, but analysts will ask questions about his leadership abilities.