Even if you aren’t a basketball fan, through social media you have most likely come across Zion Williamson. The high-flying athletic small forward for the Class of 2018 who looks like he is physically mature enough for the NBA. His in-game dunk videos make the NBA Slam Dunk contest look like amateurs are taking over the internet. Since coming out of high school straight to the NBA won’t be an option for Zion, how does his game translate to the next level?
I always hear people in the basketball world have the conversation that a talent like this is ready for the NBA, but is he really? What can you really expect from an 18-year-old kid playing against guys like Kawhi Leonard? Even if he can match up physically the game will come so fast that instead of just playing, the player is now thinking. Basketball is a game of instinct and being able to react with the unconscious mind.
When you are 6’7″ 230 lbs with over a 40″ vertical it does seem compelling to think that college is waste of time. People just have to understand there aren’t many guys like LeBron James who can come into the NBA at 18 years old and average 20 PPG right off the bat.
The biggest knock on Zion about these high-flying videos is the competition he is doing it against. I once played high school and AAU basketball based out of South Carolina. I hate to admit that the competition can be inconsistent.
Zion plays his high school basketball at Spartanburg Day School (Spartanburg, South Carolina). Spartanburg Day School is part of the SCISA (South Carolina Independent School Association) also known as private school basketball. If you have ever played in South Carolina you know that playing SCISA is taking a step down competition and talent wise.
If you remember when North Carolina guard Seventh Woods broke the internet with his gravity defying in game dunk mixtapes. Seventh played down the road at the Hammond School (Columbia, South Carolina) which is a part of SCISA as well. Since living in New Jersey the past two years understanding that playing SCISA basketball versus going to a private school in New Jersey such as St. Anthony’s or St. Joe’s has no comparison.
When you see these 40-point and 20-rebound games by him in high school, it is important to take them with a grain of salt. The other argument is you can’t deny that Zion is dominating on the AAU circuit. He was the co-MVP at the NBPA Top 100 camp and won co-MVP as well as the dunk contest at the Under Armour Elite 24. While playing for South Carolina Supreme, he had 47 points against the Arkansas Wings.
This Summer he will continue to play on the Adidas Gauntlet Circuit with South Carolina Supreme. While out in L.A. for a tournament he suffered a knee contusion, but recently seems to be back at 100%. You can catch Zion back in his town of Spartanburg, South Carolina for the Adidas Gauntlet Final July 12-15.
With how he dominates the AAU circuit it doesn’t make me weary of his high school competition. Here are a few things I’d like to see from him this summer and senior year. On the AAU circuit, I want to see him use his first step more efficiently. With that kind of athleticism he could have a first step like Carmelo that you can’t recover from. I’d like to see him tighten his handle up just a little bit. He seems to have a strong handle, but I believer he has the capability of playing some point-forward. I also want to see strong rebounding numbers. We all know rebounding is the one skill that translates from level to level.
When it comes to his last season of high school basketball, I want to see him absolutely dominate. With his light regular season schedule, I expect the 40-point, 20-rebound games. He should single-handedly lead his team to an undefeated season. I’d love to see him stuff the stats sheets as well. This is a time for him to be able to work on parts of his game. He’s already solidified himself, now it’s time to fix weaknesses in his game.
Zion is definitely set to dominate college basketball after his final high school season. He has all the natural tools that scouts look for. He’s big, strong, fast, coachable, likable, and humble. He has all the tools to be a one and done player. I hope Zion puts the work into his game because he can reach great heights.
Now, who’s in play for Zion for his most likely one year stop? Don’t be surprised if he stays in state. Clemson is right down the road from his family. Zion comes off to me as one who genuinely cares about family. After South Carolina made a Cinderella run into the Final 4, they seem much more compelling. Since Sindarius Thornwell was drafted in the second round, which ultimately went to the Clippers and P.J. Dozier signed an undrafted free agent deal with the Lakers. This means the door is wide open for Zion to come into South Carolina and it be his team immediately.
If I had to choose between one of the in-state schools as if I was Zion, I’d pick South Carolina. Frank Martin seems to really get the most out of his players, no matter the school. He’s really molding a program that will have more consistent future draft picks.
As for Brad Brownell at Clemson, he didn’t do too much to help fellow draftee Jaron Blossomgame draft stock. Jaron would have been a higher draft pick if he would have gone in the 2016 NBA Draft. He allowed Jaron to float around the perimeter too much instead of utilizing him more in the post and mid-range. The slow half-court pace of Brownell’s system wouldn’t fit Zion either.
However, all of the blue bloods such as UCLA, North Carolina, Duke, Kentucky, and Kansas have offered as well. Other schools such as Arizona, Baylor, UCONN, Florida, Georgetown, Maryland, Miami, Virginia, Georgia, Georgia Tech, Virginia Tech, and Iowa State have offered too.
It will be interesting to see how his last year shakes up. The consensus #2 recruit of the Class of 2018 seems to have a busy summer ahead. Here at Basketball Society, we will continue to update his progress as his final year comes to a close.