Zion Williamson surprised many in committing to Duke. 

A look ahead: Scouting Zion Williamson

As college basketball has drawn to a close, the Blue Zone will take an early look at Duke’s incoming recruiting class—the top-ranked group in the nation. We will now take a look at power forward Zion Williamson, the No. 2 recruit in the nation: 

Scouting report: strengths

Williamson’s most obvious attribute is his incredible athleticism. The 6-foot-6, 272-pound forward became a national sensation early in his high school career when viral videos of his highlight-reel dunks began circulating on social media.

Williamson is a unique player who is able to dominate at his position with his strength rather than height. The best comparison would be Charles Barkley, who revolutionized the power forward position despite standing just 6-foot-6 and went on to establish himself as one of the finest rebounders in NBA history. A fierce shot-blocker, tremendous rebounder and capable ball-handler, Williamson is much more than a dunker.

Scouting report: potential weaknesses

Williamson, at 6-foot-6, is undersized for his position, but hopes to compensate for it with his strength and imposing frame. As players like Barkley and Draymond Green have shown, technique and physicality are often more important than height.

Another aspect of Williamson’s game which may hold him back is his shooting. He rarely pulls the trigger from past the 3-point line, and is rather ineffective when he does. The young sensation made just seven of his 35 attempts from behind the arc his senior year, but an incredible 84.7% of his 2-point field goal attempts. In order to keep defenders on their toes and avoid becoming one-dimensional, Williamson should look to hone his perimeter shot. 

Recent Duke comparison:

Truthfully, Duke has never had a player quite like Zion Williamson, and there are very few programs that can say they have. The closest the Blue Devils have come would likely be Carlos Boozer, who helped bring Duke a national championship in 2001. 

Like Boozer, Williamson is undersized for his position but uses his large frame and overpowering strength to bully his opponents. However, Williamson is much more athletic, with some comparing his explosiveness to that of 14-time NBA All-Star LeBron James, another player who achieved nationwide fame as a high school player.


At the college level, Williamson will no longer be competing against severely-outmatched high schoolers. The 17-year-old will have to prove to his critics that he is more than just a human highlight reel and work with Mike Krzyzewski to develop his all-around game, including a consistent jumpshot. If he is unsuccessful, he will still be an effective scorer and highlight reel machine, but his impact on winning may be limited.


If Williamson is indeed able to increase his range and help spread the floor for Krzyzewski’s team, he will become a near-unstoppable offensive force. Opponent defenses will be in complete disarray as they try to contain Williamson without leaving fellow freshmen R.J. Barrett and Cam Reddish open. Together, Duke’s elite recruiting class could have a great chance of bringing another national championship banner to Cameron Indoor Stadium.

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