Able to go anywhere in the country to play out the rest of his high school basketball career, Zion Williamson is choosing to stay home at Spartanburg Day School, the team he led to a state title this past season while emerging as a national phenomenon on the court.
“My mom always told me growing up that if you were good enough, attention would find you,” Williamson said.
Mom was right.
The 6-foot-6 small forward has been playing in front of his hometown fans over the past few days as part of the Adidas Gauntlet Finale, one of the final stops on the summer basketball recruiting circuit.
When Williamson is on the court, the area around it is packed.
And it’s not just friends, family and locals in the stands.
Every college coach who thinks he has any chance at all in Williamson’s recruitment has been here, too. John Calipari. Mike Krzyzewski. Bill Self. They’ve all been courtside for Williamson’s games this week, and they’re all trying to get him on the their college campuses for visits this fall.
Only one of them will get him in their school’s uniform for next season.
Williamson said Thursday that he hopes to make that college decision before the start of his upcoming senior season, so he can concentrate on winning another state championship for Spartanburg Day.
“I’m probably not going to make a list,” he said. “I’m going to pick a school when it feels right.”
Scout.com ranks Williamson as the No. 3 overall player in the class of 2018 — he’s No. 1 overall in the 247Sports rankings — and he’s coming off of a high school season in which he earned national junior of the year honors from MaxPreps.com.
Williamson filled up the stat sheet night after night — averaging 36.8 points and 13.0 rebounds per game — and he also threw down enough highlight-reel dunks and threw away enough highlight-reel blocks to land on ESPN’s SportsCenter on multiple occasions.
Famed hip-hop artist Drake — a UK basketball fan, remember — has been photographed wearing Williamson’s high school jersey. Millions have seen his video highlights on YouTube and social media.
“Zion Williamson is a unique prospect,” Scout.com’s Evan Daniels told the Herald-Leader. “He’s obviously gifted and a physical freak, in terms of his athletic ability. I think he has the potential to be a really good rebounder. He’s versatile enough to play out on the perimeter, but he’s also really effective around the goal.
“Athletically, he’s as good as it gets in this class.”
At 6-6 and built like a football player, Williamson actually plays like a point guard at times. He regularly brings the ball up the floor for his team and is a handful in transition. In one sequence here Friday, he ran down the court on defense, grabbed a strong rebound, put it on the floor, dribbled back the other way and went behind his back with the ball between two defenders before gliding to the basket for a layup.
That’s the norm for Williamson, who really brings out the oohs and aahs with those epic dunks and blocked shots.
What’s he thinking as he nears the basket on one of those massive slams?
“What’s going through my head is just, ‘Break the rim,’” he said, matter of factly.
On Thursday night, he blocked one shot in transition with both hands, then came crashing down with one leg bent awkwardly underneath his body. It looked awful on video. Williamson popped right up and went on with the game.
“It’s scary to watch because of the way I fell,” he said. “It was a weird landing, but there was no pain afterwards.”
These types of plays have made him arguably the most coveted recruit in the country.
“There’s definitely a significant amount of hype around him,” Daniels said.
Williamson’s plan is to take his official visits sometime this fall with the hope of coming to a college decision before the November signing period.
Kentucky has been prominently mentioned as a major player in his recruitment, especially in recent weeks. Five-star point guard Immanuel Quickley — thought to be leaning toward the Wildcats — is close friends with Williamson, and the two have spoken often about playing together in college. Rivals.com national analyst Eric Bossi predicted Wednesday that Williamson would ultimately choose the Cats, and 247Sports national analyst Jerry Meyer is also picking UK for the star player.
Williamson has spoken glowingly of Calipari and the Wildcats’ program, but he didn’t tip his hand during interviews this week.
Fans hoping to watch his rim-rattling game in Rupp Arena will have to wait a little bit longer to see if that dream comes true.
“I’m just looking at every opportunity because I only get once chance to pick a school,” he said. “So I have to make sure it’s the right school.”