North Carolina vs. Duke: UNC coach Roy Williams says Blue Devils' freshman Zion Williamson is 'a different bird'

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Stopping Duke star Zion Williamson is a task no opposing coach has had success doing this season, and North Carolina's Hall of Fame coach Roy Williams knows it's not a simple challenge.

"Zion's a different bird, there's no question about that," Williams said Monday. "We tried to recruit him very, very hard. He's got a combination of skills that I've never seen before, and there's a lot of attention -- but he deserves it. He's backed it up, he's pretty good."

The freshman from Spartanburg, S.C., is averaging 22.4 points and 9.2 rebounds for the Blue Devils. He comes in to Wednesday's rivalry fresh off a 32-point outing on Saturday, the latest heroic showing in a month in which he's averaging 24.4 points per contest during Duke's surge to the top of the polls.

At 6-foot-8, 280, there is not a player who can match up with Williamson on UNC's roster -- or on any college basketball roster. He flies in his own rarefied air, to coin a bird phrase, and his combination of athleticism, length, hustle and skill is impossible to stop.

Teams have slowed him this season, though. Auburn and San Diego State limited him to 13 points back in November, Florida State limited him to 11 in mid-January. In those games, they took the ball out of his hands and made fellow frosh RJ Barrett beat them (to no avail). Williams isn't going to lay bare his gameplan for Wednesday's game, but that may be a similar strategy the Tar Heels deploy.

"Everybody's easier to guard if they don't have the ball," Williams said. "That's something you try to focus on, but he's got a unique set. Everybody's tried to keep him from getting the ball, but last time I looked he's still shooting 180 percent from the floor. We're going to try to do the same thing a lot of those other guys have done."

Duke is more than just Zion and the challenges he presents to teams, too. It also has projected top 5 picks RJ Barrett and Cam Reddish, as well as facilitator Tre Jones. All four could be first-round picks this summer, so Williams knows his hands are full.

"In a lot of ways," Williams said, "this is the most gifted Duke team in the 16 years I've been back."

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