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Zion Yearns For Duke As He Collects ESPY Award On Wednesday Night As Best College Athlete

Williamson Wins Best College Athlete At ESPY Awards Not picking on Zion Williamson. Nope. Not at all. Well, a tiny bit. But it’s not his fault. The former Duke...

(Photo Source: nba.com)

Williamson Wins Best College Athlete At ESPY Awards

Not picking on Zion Williamson. Nope. Not at all.

Well, a tiny bit. But it’s not his fault.

The former Duke University basketball star – he played as a freshman, dazzled as a freshman and departed as a freshman – won an ESPY on Wednesday night as Best College Athlete of the past season.

No argument with that. After a knee injury took away a chunk of that lone season at Duke, the 6-foot-7, 285-pound Williamson opted for the NBA draft and was the first player selected. He was a Blue Devil. Now he’s a Pelican. Though, in his acceptance speech, Zion yearned a bit for Durham, North Carolina.

“I love Duke. Wish I could have stayed another year, but I had things to do,” Williamson said.

Now we quibble … just a wee bit. OK, so millions of dollars were at stake, along with the risk of injury (remember his exploding shoe?) if he elected to be a sophomore. He could have stayed at Duke. He could have continued his education. No one made him turn pro.

The problem is that the system made him go to college at all when he was already equipped for a career in his chosen field.

The NBA will not draft players who are less than 19 years of age. At 18, Williamson’s choice was college or playing professionally overseas (and some of the prospects are starting to do this). He picked a platform that would give him extraordinary coaching and exposure, high-level competition and all the tools to move on quickly as a pro. His rookie contract’s estimated worth sits at around $45 million.

Wish he could have stayed at Duke? Well, he could have, not that it would have made sense.

That he was forced into a situation that makes a mockery of education (see NCAA, a mockery of education, and NBA, stupid draft rules) was not his fault. That’s he’s of two minds is understandable.

He’s already been shut down by the Pelicans for the NBA Summer League with a bruised knee, but he will certainly be a fascinating rookie for a team that truly needed a lift. Of course, he did the right thing in moving on.

And if you hate Duke (raise your hands!), you’re glad he chose not to stay.

 
 
Post By: Larry Weisman, a longtime sportswriter for USA TODAY, blogs for Twistity.com. Follow him on Twitter @MrLarryWeisman

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