In the least surprising news of the day, Duke superstar Zion Williamson was the first name called when the NBA draft began Thursday night in New York.
Williamson was overcome with emotion after NBA Commissioner Adam Silver finally announced he had been selected by the New Orleans Pelicans.
With tears in his eyes, he told draft broadcaster ESPN, “I don’t know what to say. I didn’t think I’d be in this position. My mom sacrificed a lot for me. I wouldn’t be here without my mom.”
Williamson choked up as he talked about his mother.
“She put her dreams aside for mine,” he said.
When asked what he would say to his new team and city, Williamson said, “Let’s dance. Let’s dance.”
In his lone season at Duke, Williamson was the biggest draw men’s college basketball had seen in years. Listed at 6 feet, 7 inches tall and 285 pounds, Williamson was a hoops highlight reel — not just with his explosive dunks but with his all-around game.
And also when he blew apart one of his shoes during a game against North Carolina.
Williamson led Duke to the Elite Eight at the NCAA tournament, averaging 22.6 points and 8.9 rebounds.
The Pelicans had only a 6% chance to land the top pick after a 33-49 season but beat the odds.
The Memphis Grizzlies took Murray State point guard Ja Morant with the No. 2 pick.
“It means a lot,” Morant said. “Obviously it means that Memphis sees a lot in me. I’m grateful and thankful to them for drafting me. I’m very excited to play in Memphis.”
Duke freshman R.J. Barrett was picked third by the New York Knicks and his collegiate team Cam Reddish was selected by the Atlanta Hawks with the 10th pick, making the Blue Devils the second program to have three players taken in the top 10 of the same draft (Florida, 2007).
One of the most interesting picks was Darius Bazley, a 6-foot-8 forward who didn’t go to college and didn’t play overseas. Instead he took a year off to prepare for the NBA draft process. He was selected with the 23rd pick by the Utah Jazz.