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What could have been: Zion Williamson admits he wanted to return to Duke for sophomore season

<p>Williamson is nearing his NBA debut with the Pelicans.</p>

Williamson is nearing his NBA debut with the Pelicans.

Duke basketball fans have a lot to be excited about as ACC play has started to kick into full gear. With a legit National Player of the Year candidate in Vernon Carey Jr., a 14-1 record and No. 2 national ranking, it's once again looking like national championship or bust in Durham.

That's not to say, however, that a former Blue Devil isn't back in the headlines making those fans dream of an even better outlook.

New Orleans Pelicans forward Zion Williamson appeared on another former Blue Devil J.J. Redick's podcast Wednesday, where the 2019 No. 1 pick mentioned that he really wanted to return to Duke for his sophomore season, something that would have broken the basketball world after arguably one of the most efficient seasons in collegiate history. Williamson said that he originally chose to return to school, but was encouraged to be safe and go pro by his parents and head coach Mike Krzyzewski, which he eventually did.

The South Carolina native said in the podcast that no one ever believes he wanted to return for another year, and that's with good reason. Williamson was a consensus first-team All-American and took home nearly every major player of the year award in his lone season.

With a sophomore Williamson in the fold, this year's Duke team could have been even more dangerous than it is now and would surely solve college basketball's lack of a dominant team this year. Of course, this probably would have led to Matthew Hurt, who is developing into a crucial piece in his own right, committing to a different school. However, it's easy to forget that Williamson's best friend from last year, R.J. Barrett, reclassified and technically should be a freshman in Durham right now. Oh, the possibilities.

Williamson has yet to play a regular season game with New Orleans this season after undergoing surgery to repair his meniscus. The rookie averaged over 23 points and six rebounds in preseason action and is expected to return soon for his official NBA debut. Williamson's guaranteed earnings thus far—based on his shoe contract with Jordan and guaranteed $20 million from the Pelicans—are estimated to be around an eye-popping $100 million range.

The 2018-19 squad accomplished a lot and this year's team is well on its way to great things as well, though one can't help imagine the idea of another year of one of the greatest players to ever wear a Duke uniform.

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