Duke legend Christian Laettner has fond memories of Minneapolis. It's where he won the second of two titles at Duke. It's where the Final Four will be this season for the second time since Laettner led Duke to the title in 1992.
"I'm up in Minneapolis all the time. I love being up there," Laettner said Tuesday on. "I can't believe the Final Four is going to be there again, and I'll be there."
Laettner will be there without the company of his Duke Blue Devils, who were knocked off by No. 2 seed Michigan State in the East Regional final this weekend. Duke was the No. 1 overall seed and the heavy betting favorite coming into the NCAA Tournament with a wealth of future first-rounders on the roster, but its season came up just short of most everyone's expectations -- Laettner included.
"I'm a little disappointed that Duke didn't win the other night, I wish Duke could be there also," said Laettner, who will return this week to the same city he led the Blue Devils to the apex of the sport. "They had some close shaves, and that's tough in the tournament. Michigan State played a great game, but overall I think Duke had a great year. It was fun watching RJ Barrett and Zion Williamson play, so I was proud of them and the job Coach K did."
While most will turn their attention towards Minneapolis and how the Final Four will play out, some are more interested in how the next step of the basketball process unfolds, specifically for a Duke team that was chock full of talent. Many expect that to be the NBA Draft, where Williamson is expected by many to go No. 1 overall and by Laettner to thrive.
"I think [Williamson] is going to do extremely well in the NBA," he says. "He reminds me of Shaq within five or six feet of the bucket, he's unstoppable. He reminds me a little of LeBron in the open court and transition game, and then also of Charles Barkley in terms of how he pursues the ball and how good of a rebounder he is and how intense he is. He's a lot of fun to watch."
"And then if you took Bo Jackson and turned him 6-foot-7 and put him on the basketball court," he added.
A combination of Shaq, LeBron, Jackson and Barkley is one of the greatest athletes ... of all time. So maybe let's pump the brakes here a bit, seeing as Williamson hasn't yet turned 19. But without question, the expectations are high for Williamson as he marches ahead in his career, presumably as a member of .... the Knicks? The Cavaliers, maybe?
"Any team in the NBA should be rolling out the red carpet and doing everything they can to get this kid on their team," Laettner said. "He's going to be a season ticket seller, he's going to sell out the arena everywhere they go. They were calling him must-watch TV this year in college basketball. He's going to be a huge draw in the NBA."