While it is hard to be surprised by Zion Williamson’s choice of Duke, the Blue Devils were far from a favorite entering tonight’s ceremony.
Zion Williamson is the No. 3 player in the class of 2018, per 247Sports. He is the top player from South Carolina, and the top power forward.
Williamson was down to six finalists: Clemson, Duke, Kansas, Kentucky, North Carolina, and South Carolina. Four of those schools are among the strongest recruiting programs in college basketball, but the two local programs appeared to have a legitimate shot down the stretch.
Specifically, Clemson was considered the favorite by many entering today. Brad Brownell’s program seemed poised to pull off the coup.
One major reason for Clemson’s candidacy is his step-father Lee Anderson. He is a Clemson alumnus, and is very influential in Williamson’s career.
It didn’t hurt that Clemson is off to a fast start and is currently in the top 25 this season. Clemson met with Williamson during the week, and there was a rumor going around that he might have been on the Tigers’ campus last night, though that remains unfounded.
Even the recruiting gurus bought in on the Tigers hype. 85-percent of voters at the time of his commitment believed he’d be a Tiger. Only four-percent chose Duke.
Anderson spoke to the media after the decision and backed up the notion that Clemson was a favorite. He even admitted that the Tigers were a pretty big leader until recently. From TigerNet (emphasis is mine):
“They did everything right. It’s nothing against the coaches. Nothing against them at all. I told Clemson when they came in the other night, ‘Somewhere along the way, you all had a mile and a half lead on the situation. I don’t know what happened along the way but you all had a big distance.’ The next thing I know I hear Zion saying South Carolina and North Carolina and Duke is inching closer. I was like, ‘Whoa.'”
It just goes to show that you can never rule out Mike Krzyzewski in a distance race. It also makes it seem like this was legitimately all Zion’s decision in the end, which is good.