The nation's No. 3 player, Zion Williamson, pulls shocker by committing to Duke

Zion Williamson, one of the most famous prospects ever in this contemporary, social media era of college basketball recruiting, announced his long-awaited decision Saturday evening.

The big man is going blueblood. Williamson will play for Duke.

Williamson is the No. 3-ranked player in 247 Sports' Composite and with his commitment, Duke now has the top three players in the Class of 2018, according to 247Sports.  Williamson joins No. 1 player R.J Barrett, a 6-foot-7 forward from Montverde (Florida) Academy and No. 2 player Cameron Reddish, a 6-foot-7 forward from the Westtown School in Norristown, Pennsylvania as part of the Blue Devils' historic recruiting Class of 2018.

Williamson picked the Blue Devils over Clemson, Kentucky, South Carolina, North Carolina and Kansas. While this next statementis  almost never true when it comes to a five-star prospect deciding to play for Mike Krzyzewwki, the fact of the matter is Williamson picking Duke is a surprising outcome. Heading into the weekend, 247 Sports' Crystal Ball projection had Clemson at 87 percent to land the dominating talent from Spartanburg, South Carolina. Kentucky and South Carolina were considered finalists but Duke wasn't even listed as a possibility.

He has a million-dollar smile and a game built on power and capacity that at times uncoils into something graphic. If you haven't seen him before, this is your warning.

What made Duke the right pick? Why not Clemson or any of the others?

"Duke stood out, because the brotherhood represents a family," Williamson said. "Coach K, he's just the most legendary coach to ever coach college basketball. I feel like going to Duke University I can learn a lot from him during my time there. Like I said, the brotherhood represents family, and I'm all about family." 

Throughout Williamson's recruitment, there was a strong feeling from many in college basketball that he would stay in-state. Clemson's Brad Brownell and South Carolina's Frank Martin sold Williamson hard on becoming a legend in South Carolina the way so few players have.

But it's hard to compete with Coach K. His track record is unparalleled. What he's able to do with Williamson will be fascinating. Duke's roster situation for next season is unclear, but it will not be short of pizzazz. Williamson is a 6-6 power forward who has been long hyped for good reason. He's a wide-bodied man child, a superfreak of an athlete with a dunking power that's seldom seen with a 16- or 17-year-old.

Questions linger about how he'll adapt at the Division I level and if he'll be able to bully-ball his way to the type of numbers he put up in high school. That's what will be intriguing about Williamson as a fit next season. Parts of his game will have to change, while other features could only get enhanced with the right pieces around him.

Williamson's position at the college should continue to be power forward, even if he's undersized when it comes to height. His 7-foot wingspan and 275-pound frame ensure that he'll be unlike any other player in the sport next season.

It's understandable if Clemson and South Carolina fans are most let down by the news. It's rare when any ACC program that recruits against Duke and UNC beats either of those bluebloods for a five-star player. Throw in Kentucky and Kansas, and the odds grow ever slimmer.

It would have been great to see Williamson balling out for Clemson. He could have meant as much for that program and done as much for its publicity as Oklahoma native Trae Young has done for the Sooners this season. But ultimately, college basketball is best served when its biggest stars are at the biggest schools and commanding attention and discussion not just January through March, but long before the season starts.

Every season it seems like there's that one recruit whose skillset hasn't been seen before in college basketball. Because of where he's going, Williamson's college debut will certainly be one of the most anticipated events in all of sports come November. 

CBS Sports Writer

Matt Norlander is a national award-winning senior writer who has been with CBS Sports since 2010. He's in his eighth season covering college basketball for CBS, and also covers the NBA Draft, the Olympics,... Full Bio

Show Comments Hide Comments
Our Latest Stories