David M. HaleESPN Staff WriterClose
- ACC reporter.
- Joined ESPN in 2012.
- Graduate of the University of Delaware.
The star Blue Devils freshman has made his share of headlines this season with highlight-reel dunks, but he said after Duke’s 87-65 win that he’s glad he got to show off the rest of his skill set.
“I kind of hate being classified as a dunker,” Williamson said. “Coach [Mike Krzyzewski] wouldn’t have recruited me if I was just a dunker. But I guess people on the outside don’t understand that. I can’t play to impress other people. I’m playing to get better for myself and my teammates and hopefully make a run for a national championship.”
Williamson made his case against the Demon Deacons. His 30 points were a career high, and it marked the 11th 25-point game by a Duke freshman this season — tying the Blue Devils’ total from last season, according to ESPN Stats & Information.
But in addition to the scoring, Williamson had 10 rebounds, 5 assists, 4 steals and a blocked shot, while dominating the paint on both ends of the court.
Williamson also sank three 3-pointers, nearly matching his season total of four entering play.
Zion Williamson describes people thinking of him only as a dunker and focuses on getting better as a player.
“Coach is always telling me to shoot the ball, but if it’s not falling, then I’m not going to,” said Williamson, who air-balled his first shot from 3. “But after I shot that one over the rim, they were like, ‘Z, shoot another one,’ and I got it right back and made it. I think my confidence from 3 is getting a lot better.”
The shot might still be something of a work in progress, but after the game, Wake Forest coach Danny Manning offered ample praise for the guy who just stomped his team, comparing Williamson to former Demon Deacons great Rodney Rodgers.
“That size, the athleticism, he’s a really well-put-together young man,” Manning said.
Krzyzewski said he had encouraged Williamson to expand his game, including the shots from 3.
“I have confidence in him doing everything,” Krzyzewski said. “If I don’t, there’s something wrong with me. He’s a complete player.”
How complete? According to ESPN Stats & Info, Williamson is the only Division I player in the past 20 years to post a line with 30 points, 10 boards, 5 assists, 4 steals and 80 percent shooting from the field. Ben Simmons, who went on to become the No. 1 overall pick in the 2016 NBA draft, is the only other Division I freshman to post a 30-10-5-4 line.
Williamson laughed about the final stat line, suggesting even he was a bit surprised by the complete performance, but guard Tre Jones said this was the type of performance the team has been used to seeing behind the scenes.
“I see that every day in practice,” Jones said. “We know what he’s capable of. He draws more than one defender every time he attacks, and he’s able to find open guys. You guys were able to see that tonight.”