Big Mark is going to the big stage.
Duke center Mark Williams announced Monday on social media that he will be leaving the Blue Devils and pursuing a career in the NBA by declaring for the draft.
"Mark was a joy to coach," former head coach Mike Krzyzewski said in a team release Monday evening. "This is such a special moment for him and his incredible family, and we will miss having the Williamses in our program. Mark was the ACC Defensive Player of the Year and one of the best shot blockers in the country, but that doesn't tell the entire story about the type of player he is. He is gifted at both ends of the floor and is driven to get even better every day. The NBA team that drafts Mark is obviously getting a talented player, but an equally impressive young man off the court that will represent their organization with class. I cannot wait to watch him at the next level."
The 7-foot-1 big man took a slow start to his freshman year to new heights with his 2021-22 campaign, in which he averaged 11.2 points, 7.4 rebounds and 2.8 blocks per game. He was a dominant force inside for the Blue Devils from start to finish, and the Virginia Beach, Va., native did it with remarkable efficiency—he slots in at second in Duke history for best field goal percentage in a season at 72.1%, behind only Christian Laettner. He also owns the fourth-highest blocks total in a season by a Blue Devil and was the only qualified player in the nation to shoot 70% from both the field and the charity stripe this past season.
Williams won the ACC’s Defensive Player of the Year award and was named to the All-ACC third team and earned NCAA West Region All-Tournament honors for his role in Duke’s run to the Final Four. He scored 14.5 points, grabbed 8.8 rebounds and swatted 4.0 shots per game in the Blue Devils’ first four games of the NCAA tournament.
He entered his second season in Durham with high expectations after the former five-star recruit’s breakout performance in Duke’s final game of the previous season against Louisville. He took on the nation’s top team and top recruit in Gonzaga’s Chet Holmgren to the tune of 17 points, nine rebounds and six blocks. He later put on a show in front of the home fans Jan. 15 against N.C. State when he nearly notched a triple-double with 19 points, 11 rebounds and eight blocks. Williams scored a career-high 28 points on the road against Syracuse in February.
The IMG Academy product rode the bench for most of the first half of his freshman season, but exploded on the scene following Jalen Johnson’s departure from the program and the Blue Devils’ need for Williams’ length. Over the last six games of the season—including the Blue Devils’ COVID-19-shortened ACC tournament run—Williams posted 16.7 points with 7.8 rebounds on 74.6% shooting, including the memorably dominant 23-point, 19-rebound outing in Duke’s win against Louisville in Greensboro.
His head tap following posterizing dunks and alley-oops made him a favorite among the Cameron Crazies, and his size and presence on the floor will certainly be missed, but he has rapidly developed a skill set that is likely to suit him well in the NBA.
He is a projected mid to late first-round pick.
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Micah Hurewitz is a Trinity junior and a sports managing editor of The Chronicle's 118th volume.