David M. HaleESPN Staff WriterClose
- ACC reporter.
- Joined ESPN in 2012.
- Graduate of the University of Delaware.
Williamson got his first crack at a Tigers team that nearly landed the superstar recruit and Spartanburg, South Carolina, native before he spurned his local school in favor of blue blood Duke, and Saturday night’s 87-68 win included plenty of highlights to remind the Tigers what they missed.
Williamson finished 9-of-11 from the floor with 10 rebounds and a game-high 25 points, but nothing stood out more than the dunk. Williamson stole a pass near midcourt, took it to the free throw line and launched into a 360-degree spin before slamming the ball home as the crowd erupted.
“I’m not amazed at that stuff,” Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said. “He can do that. We allow him to do it. There’s no ceiling on how high or how many times he can twirl — as long as he puts the damn thing in.”
That, Williamson said, is exactly why he’s at Duke and not Clemson.
Brad Brownell’s Tigers appeared to be a likely landing spot for Williamson for much of his recruitment, but he said he landed on Duke just hours before announcing his decision. He said what swayed him, ultimately, was a chance to play with a number of other elite recruits and Krzyzewski’s willingness to embrace his style of play.
“It was a very hard decision,” Williamson said. “Each school was a good fit. But when it came down to it, playing for Coach K, playing with other great players, I mean, I felt like I couldn’t turn that away, and these other players would make me better, and Coach K would let me be me. And so far, I don’t regret my decision at all.”
Brownell might be regretting it a bit, though.
Asked after the game if Williamson had developed as Brownell anticipated during his recruitment, the Clemson coach was succinct: “Yeah,” he said. “I thought he’d be this good.”
Of his own team, however, Brownell was a bit less glowing.
“Really disappointed in my team,” he said. “We didn’t play well all night. Duke had something to do with that, but a lot of the things we practiced, they didn’t seem to want to do tonight, and Duke made us pay.”
Neither team played well at the outset. However, Duke found its stride by halftime, but Brownell said Clemson’s physicality was “nonexistent.” and by the end, “we just gave in.”
It was nothing personal, Williamson said, just business.
“I feel like when you put your personal problems in front of the team, it always shows, and it doesn’t look good,” Williamson said of the matchup. “We’re a brotherhood, and we play hard for each other, and we just want to win.”
In the end, Williamson shrugged off the monster dunk, calling it “a 7 or 8.” He said fans still haven’t seen his best.
“We’ve got to see [what a 10 looks like],” Williamson said. “I can’t tell you yet.”