Every year in college basketball, there is one player who stands out over the rest. Three years ago it was Buddy Hield, two years ago Josh Hart was argued as the best player, although Caleb Swanigan had a pretty good case as well. Trae Young was the best player last year.
The best player doesn’t necessarily score the most, get the most assists, rebound the best or win the postseason awards, but it sometimes ends up that way. This year the best player in college basketball is Zion Williamson.
Pre-College Zion Williamson
Williamson was a highly-touted recruit out of South Carolina, who was showing up on highlight reels throughout his high school career. ESPN had him as the second-best recruit in the class and people were already talking about his potential to play in the NBA.
For his college choice, Williamson chose to play at Duke with two of the other top three players in the class, R.J. Barrett and Cam Reddish. With those three Duke has been projected to be one of the best teams and to possibly win a National Championship.
Before the season, Duke was fortunate to play games this summer in Canada. Williamson again showed off his great athleticism and the Blue Devils were able to display their great potential heading into the 2018-2019 season.
The Blue Devils opened up the season with a highly-anticipated matchup against Kentucky, who also featured a team many thought would compete for a National Championship. Duke proceeded to blow out the Wildcats, winning 118-84. Williamson totaled 28 points and seven rebounds in the game.
After that game, Duke coasted to the Maui Invitational Tournament Final, beating a solid San Diego State team and a good Auburn team along the way. The Blue Devils lost to Gonzaga for their only loss of the season so far, but Williamson put up 22 points and five rebounds to help the cause.
Since that loss, Duke has rattled off eight straight wins. Williamson has led the way while they have gotten victories over quality teams like Indiana, Texas Tech and Clemson.
Now, Duke is in the thick of ACC Play with the team and Williamson both living up to the hype so far.
In Duke’s 24 games this season, Williamson has averaged 20.9 points, 10.9 rebounds, 2.4 assists and 1.9 blocks per game. Averaging a double-double shouldn’t be taken for granted, but his assist rate is great for a player that stands 6-foot-7 and 285 pounds. His athleticism is displayed not only through his dunks, but also through his ability to block that many shots per game, as a lot of times the shooter never sees him coming.
Williamson ranks fifth in the country, hitting 67.9% of his field goal attempts. A lot of his field goal attempts come right near the basket, but that shows the knowledge of his skill set and his basketball IQ. He only shoots 28% from three-point range, but shoots less than two of them per game.
The stat that most emphasizes the case for Williamson as the top player in college basketball this season is his Player Efficiency Rating (PER). The link describes PER, but it basically judges how efficient a player is based on their actions on the court. The system is set to have 15 as the average. The all-time leader for a college basketball season is John Brown from High Point with 36.93 in 2015-2016. Williamson’s PER so far this season is 43.1, which is astronomically good.
Yes, there is still a long way to go in the college basketball season, but Williamson has already proven to be the best player in college basketball. Now, fans can tune in, sit back and enjoy watching Williamson for the next three months before he heads off into the NBA.
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