Duke’s Zion Williamson wins AP men’s college player of the year | Inquirer Sports
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Duke’s Zion Williamson wins AP men’s college player of the year

/ 03:25 PM April 06, 2019
Zion Williamson AP

Duke freshman Zion Williamson answers questions at a news conference where he was awarded the Associated Press men’s college basketball player of the year award at the Final Four NCAA college basketball tournament, Friday, April 5, 2019, in Minneapolis. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

MINNEAPOLIS — Just about everything Zion Williamson did at Duke created a highlight or headline in a spectacle of a season.

The soaring dunks.

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The open-court moves more nimble than his 6-foot-7, 285-pound frame should allow.

Even the freak occurrence of one of his feet tearing through its shoe in a fall to the court.

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Handling all that attention became maybe the biggest lesson for the freshman, who quickly became the face of college basketball and the game’s biggest star in years — then fittingly finished as The Associated Press men’s player of the year.

“I was comfortable with it because you don’t really have a choice,” Williamson said in an interview with the AP earlier this week. “I think if you try to force it out, then it’s going to bother you. … My mom just told me to look at it as a lot of kids would wish to be in my position, so if it does bother me, I just think about it like that.”

Williamson claimed 59 of 64 votes from AP Top 25 voters before the NCAA Tournament in results released Friday. Freshman teammate RJ Barrett earned two votes as a fellow AP first-team All-American, while Virginia’s De’Andre Hunter, Michigan State’s Cassius Winston and Murray State’s Ja Morant each earned one vote.

Williamson had hoped to be in Minneapolis preparing for Saturday’s national semifinals like Hunter and Winston. But the Blue Devils fell to Winston’s Spartans in the Elite Eight as the top overall seed.

“I was just telling (teammates) don’t let nobody tell you this season was a disappointment, because people have got to understand it’s March Madness,” he said, adding: “I mean, winning the championship is not a cakewalk.”

In a likely one-year college stop for a possible top overall NBA draft pick, the 18-year-old Williamson averaged 22.6 points and 8.9 rebounds while ranking second nationally by shooting 68%. He also ranked among the Atlantic Coast Conference leaders in steals (2.12) and blocks (1.79).

Williamson’s play was marked by breathtaking athleticism to go by, through and over anyone to get the ball (look at his personal-favorite 360-degree dunk against Clemson or his rapid-closeout swat of Hunter’s shot at Virginia for proof).

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There was the charisma, too. He projected a self-assured ease amid the crush of postgame interviews, even routinely having walk-on Mike Buckmire join him as a wingman as though bringing his teammate into his unique orbit.

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TAGS: college basketball, college player of the year, Duke Blue Devils, NCAA, Zion Williamson
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