Zion Receives AP National Player Of The Year Award

MINNEAPOLIS — Zion Williamson arrived at the Final Four on Friday.

But the most hyped and compelling college basketball player in recent memory was here to pick up some major hardware, not to play more basketball.

“Yeah, I am a competitor,” he said humbly as he accepted both the Oscar Robertson Trophy and the Associated Press National Player of the Year Award. “I wish I was here under different circumstances, but I mean, you win some, you lose some, so you just got to move on.”

The 6-foot-7 Williamson had hoped to be competing in this weekend's Final Four and ultimately winning Duke's sixth NCAA championship under coach Mike Krzyzewski. But he and the Blue Devils lost a heartbreaker last Sunday to Michigan State, 68-67, in the Elite Eight in Washington, D.C.


“[Cassius] Winston just kind of controlled the game, like he took over at one point,” Williamson said of the Spartans point guard. “So congrats to Michigan State, I wish them the best of luck.”

Now comes the next phase of Williamson’s life as he heads toward the NBA Draft on June 20 in New York. Before that comes the all-important NBA Draft Lottery in Chicago on May 14.

Currently, the Knicks, Cavaliers, and Suns all have a 14 percent chance at landing a generational talent who could instantly transform their franchises.

“Whatever NBA team I land on, that’s where I want to be,” he said.

Robertson, the Hall of Famer, sat next to Williamson on the dais and praised both his talent and his humble approach to the game.

“When I watched Zion, I watched his footwork and his intelligence when he went into the basket because everyone was after him,” Robertson said. “They were going to double-team him and triple-team him and do all these things to try to keep him from around the basket. He’s so gifted and he’s just so quick and so high, it's difficult for any one person to guard him.

“And as I said before, he's going to get better when he gets to the next level, which I’m happy about.”

Williamson, in turn, said he was awed to be honored by “The Big O.”

“He’s one of the greatest to do it, and I have a lot of respect for him,” Williamson said. “I mean, me being selected for this, like I can’t put it into words, like the fact that he would take notice of me is crazy to me. So I’m like very grateful that they selected me for this.”

As for the games here at the Final Four, Williamson said he didn't have a favorite and wished all four teams good luck.

“I’m not going to select any team because, obviously, I want it to be us,” he said. “I wish all those teams the best of luck. They compete hard. Somebody’s going to come out on top.”

Asked to break down each remaining team, he did so patiently. Duke played three of the four teams this year, all except Auburn.

“But the thing about Virginia was how they could control the pace of the game,” he said. “I don’t think I’ve ever seen them frustrated. So they control the game very well.

“Texas Tech, their defense, I mean, they took like nine, ten charges against us, and I mean, their defense was probably the best I played against.

“Michigan State, they ran motion offense very—like great. When the first option wasn’t there, they kept running through their plays. I mean, they eventually found open shots.

“And Auburn, Auburn’s a fast-paced team that can shoot the three ball very well, and I mean, they’re very aggressive."

Williamson said he was glad he attended Duke for a year and wouldn’t trade the experience for anything.

“Just walking around Duke as a regular student, that's something I’m never going to forget,” he said.

“Just walking around campus, walking to class. I’m glad I came to Duke because the campus is  beautiful.”

He will never again play with Duke teammate R.J. Barrett, his close friend and the projected No. 2 pick in the NBA Draft. But he looks forward to what’s next for both.

“I think we had a great season,” he said, “and I’m looking forward to what we’re both going to do in the future.”


Adam Zagoria is a Basketball Insider who runs ZAGSBLOG.com and contributes to The New York Times. Follow Adam on Twitter.

Vets Shengelia, Huertas Inspired Baskonia

KIROLBET Baskonia Vitoria-Gasteiz head coach Velimir Perasovic made two changes to the starting lineup from the side that lost by 26 points in Game 1. He replaced second-year players Vincent Poirier and Luca Vildoza with his two most experienced players, Toko Shengelia and Marcelinho Huertas. That move had a big impact on the game.

Ulanovas The Difference-Maker For Zalgiris In Game 2

What a difference 48 hours make. Zalgiris Kaunas held on to stun previously unbeaten at home Fenerbahce Beko Istanbul Thursday night. Its 82-80 road win against the best regular-season team tied at 1-1 their best-of-five series that looked like it could go only one way earlier this week.

Baskonia Overpowers CSKA To Even Series

KIROLBET Baskonia Vitoria-Gasteiz overpowered CSKA Moscow 68-78 on Thursday night at Megasport Arena to even their best-of-five playoff series at 1-1. 

Game 1 MVP: Vasilije Micic Of Anadolu Efes Istanbul

With Anadolu Efes Istanbul playing its first-ever Turkish Airlines EuroLeague Playoffs series opener on its home floor, point guard Vasilije Micic starred to help make the occasion a winning one and in the process became MVP for Game 1.

Luka Doncic Returns To Watch Old Team, Real Madrid

One year after he led them to the Turkish Airlines EuroLeague title, teenage sensation Luka Doncic was back with his old teammates from Real Madrid on Wednesday to mark Game 1 of the team's best-of-five playoffs series against Panathinaikos OPAP Athens.

Zion Williamson Helps Couple With Gender Reveal

Apparently a dunk by Zion Williamson is good for just about everything.

Itoudis Praised CSKA's 'Almost Perfect' Effort

null

As fans of CSKA Moscow basketball surely know, Coach Dimitris Itoudis is not one to praise his charges falsely. When he analyzes his team's play after a game, win or lose, he will be honest and point out what his players must do to improve going forward. Itoudis is also quick to complement those who make the difference, but the coach believes in pushing CSKA to get better and works towards his team finishing the season (or marathon as he often calls it) in their finest form.

Fenerbahce's Dream Defense Set Records

null

If anyone wondered if Fenerbahce Beko Istanbul, the best team in the regular season, had another level to step up, they got the proof on Tuesday night. Fenerbahce welcomed Zalgiris Kaunas to the Asian side of Istanbul and showcased its best-ever defensive performance to open the best-of-five series with a resounding 76-43 victory.

Warriors Still Favored To Win NBA Title Despite DeMarcus Cousins' Injury

Despite the season-ending injury to DeMarcus Cousins and despite blowing a 31-point lead to the Clippers in Game 2 of their first-round series on Monday night, the Warriors remain -220 favorites to win their third straight NBA title.

Road To The Playoffs: Real Madrid

Proudly carrying the precious title of defending Turkish Airlines EuroLeague champion, Real Madrid has played like one for the majority of the regular season. After being crowned as a continental champion for a record 10th time last May, Madrid stormed out of the gate to start this campaign in October.