Duke's freshman forward Zion Williamson is the biggest name in college basketball. So big, that if you just say 'Zion' people automatically know who you are talking about.
When the 18-year-old phenom slipped and tore through his Nike sneaker Wednesday night against North Carolina resulting in him suffering what coach Mike Krzyzewski called a "mild right knee sprain," questions about protecting his future arose.
Expected to be the No. 1 overall pick in the 2019 NBA Draft, seeing Williamson go down and unable to return now has current and former NBA players calling for him to sit out the remainder of the season to protect his stock.
Duke felt the loss of Williamson as the Tar Heels went on to win 88-72. How much time Williamson will miss will become clearer Thursday, but is sitting out the season something he should, and will, consider?
Earlier this month, Williamson told Sports Hub Triad‘s Josh Graham that he didn't commit to Duke just to sit on the sideline.
“I just can’t stop playing," Williamson said. "I’d be letting my teammates down. I’d be letting Coach K down. I’d be letting a lot of people down. If I wanted to sit out, I wouldn’t have went to college. I came to Duke to play.”
Heading into Wednesday's rivalry, the freshman was averaging 21.6 points-per-game, 8.8 total rebounds and a 68.3 field goal percentage. Ranked No. 1 in college basketball, a national championship appearance with him at the forefront is likely.
Williamson does have a $8 million loss of value insurance policy that Duke paid for should he be selected 16th or later in the NBA draft, according to The Action Network's Darren Rovell. Injury or not, it's unlikely he would even drop that far.
Former NBA star Scottie Pippen suggested Williamson shut it down for this very reason back in January.
"I think he's done enough for basketball, college basketball, that it's more about him personally now," Pippen said on ESPN's The Jump. "I think for him as a young player that I would shut it down. I would stop playing because I feel that he could risk a major injury that could really hurt his career."
The extent and significance of his injury will become clearer over the next few weeks, but don't expect this debate to be settled any time soon.
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