Zion Williamson is leaving Duke after one high-flying season to enter the NBA draft.
Widely projected as the top overall pick in the June draft, the AP national player of the year announced his decision Monday.
Duke’s ACC rival Virginia saw two players declare for early entry. The national champion Cavaliers stand to lose De’Andre Hunter and Ty Jerome to the NBA.
The 6-foot-7, 285-pound Williamson captivated all of college basketball with his freakish, once-in-a-generation athleticism, his energy at both ends of the floor and his omnipresent charisma.
The Atlantic Coast Conference player and rookie of the year averaged 22.6 points – tied for the league lead with teammate RJ Barrett – and 8.9 rebounds. Along the way, he became the face of college basketball this season, routinely coming up with at least one highlight-reel play or show-stopping dunk per game.
His decision to turn pro came as no surprise. In fact, he spent the season greeting NBA chatter with a playful wink and a knowing nod.
He said it would be “dope” to play on a hypothetical New York Knicks team with Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant. Upon learning that LeBron James and Stephen Curry were talking about him during All-Star weekend, he responded that he’s “hoping to be there competing against them next year.”
Williamson joins Cam Reddish and Barrett as classmates headed to the pros after one season. Point guard Tre Jones says he will return to school for his sophomore year.
Virginia’s Hunter, a 6-7 redshirt sophomore, was the national champions’ second-leading scorer (15.2 points per game). He was an All-Atlantic Coast Conference first team selection and the league’s defensive player of the year. He shot 52% from the field overall and 43.8% on 3-pointers and is listed in several prognostications as a likely lottery pick.
Jerome , a 6-foot-5 junior, was the starting point guard for Cavaliers and also played some shooting guard. He led the Cavaliers with 202 assists and was second on the team with 79 3-pointers.
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