Gastelum: Is Zion Williamson The Real Deal?

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Gastelum: Is Zion Williamson The Real Deal?

Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Keenan Hairston

Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Keenan Hairston

Keenan Hairston

Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

By Leilani Gastelum

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Lately, there has been a lot of talk in the sports world and social media about 18-year-old Duke freshman, Zion Williamson. He is known to be one of the best college basketball players and is projected to be the No. 1 overall pick in the NBA June draft. But what makes Williamson so wanted by the NBA, and is he really the real deal?

On Wednesday, Feb. 20, 2019, Duke had one of his largest games of the season against No. 8 UNC. Tickets for the game were averaging $3,296 with the cheapest going for as much as $2,696. The crowd was filled with eager fans and celebrities, including former president Barack Obama and American Film Director Spike Lee, in hopes for watching yet another memorable game by Williamson.

Sadly, these fans witnessed Williamson get injured right in front of their eyes. Not even a minute into the game, as Duke took their first possession of the ball, Williamson slipped. His shoe tore open and Williamson’s foot came all the way out through the front. As a result, Williamson was diagnosed with a day-to-day Grade 1 knee sprain and is expected to continue to play with Duke in the near future.

Fans, teammates and coaches from both teams were shocked to see Williamson slowly make his way off the court with his shoe in hand, in hopes that he would not only return to play for Duke but that his injury would not affect the NBA draft pick in June. Even former President Barack Obama gave his condolences for Williamson on Twitter that night.

Without Williamson on the court, No. 1 Duke ended up losing the game against No. 8 UNC 88-72. Williamson created so much commotion after his latest injury that some began to talk about whether Williamson should return to play for Duke University or if he should end his career with Duke completely because of the June NBA Draft. According to an article in The New York Times: The math behind the argument against Williamson’s returning is simple. Per N.C.A.A. rules, Duke is not compensating Williamson, an 18-year-old freshman, beyond a scholarship and the related costs of studying at, and playing for, the university.”

Williamson’s injury has brought up issues that some college basketball players and student-athletes have encountered, the primary problem being not receiving compensation for the sport they play. Our own 22-year-old Utah Jazz Player, Donovan Mitchell, expressed his concern on the matter on Twitter right after Williamson’s injury.

After Mitchell’s tweet, there were many fans who disagreed with the statement, stating that student-athletes are still receiving compensation through free education, free housing and much more. Some argue that Williamson may want to continue playing for his team, not only to win him and his teammates their first title but also to help Duke reach their sixth national championship.

As stated before, Williamson’s injury is day-to-day and he has not fully recovered. Williamson must choose what he believes is most important, whether it is playing for the NCAA or waiting for the NBA draft.

Williamson has proved himself on the court as one of the most phenomenal college basketball players of the moment. His athletic ability all around the court is something recruiters have noticed. Williamson is leading the ACC conference in field goal percentage of .683 and in steals at 2.2. He is currently second in the ACC scoring 21.6, and third in rebounds at 8.8.

Throughout his high school career, recruiters were watching Williamson. By the end of his senior year, he was being recognized by ESPN as the No. 2 overall prospect in the class of 2018 in the five-star recruit rankings. As Williamson started his career as a Blue Devil at Duke University, he started the season dominating during the Duke Canada Tour in August 2018. He averaged 29.7 points per game and was the team’s leading rebounder at 11.3. Williamson also kept up his field goal percentage at .645 during the three wins Duke took in Canada.

What does all of this mean about Williamson? The six-foot-seven, 285 pound freshman, Zion Williamson really is one of the most impactful players in college basketball right now, and he is without a doubt ready to move into the NBA. Whether he chooses to continue to risk playing for No. 1 Duke or not, Williamson has a bright future ahead of him. He has not only proved himself on the court through his stats but he has also proved himself to his fans as one of the most exciting players to go watch.  

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@LeilaniGastelum