Zion Williamson Says Coach K Wouldn’t Let Him Return to Duke: ‘I Genuinely Wanted to Go Back’
It took a lot of convincing to get Zion to enter the NBA draft.
Zion Williamson was considered to be the most hyped NBA hopeful since LeBron James left St. Vincent-St. Mary. While this excitement would normally have players itching to start their professional career, it took a lot of convincing to get Zion to enter the NBA draft.
During an appearance on The JJ Reddick Podcast, Williamson told the former Blue Devils standout and his current New Orleans Pelicans teammate that he wanted to go back to school because he loved his time at Duke.
"I wanted to go back," Williamson said. "Nobody ever believes me. They think I'm just saying that. I genuinely wanted to go back. I felt like the NBA wasn't going anywhere. The money thing, that's money. I don't play this for money. I play this because I genuinely love the game. I just loved my experience at Duke so much that I wanted to stay."
Williamson went on to say that coach Mike Krzyzewski made it clear that he wouldn't "let" him return to school. Coach K felt that he would be leaving too much on the table by returning to play at Duke. Also, Zion's mother and stepdad wanted him to seize the opportunity of being drafted No. 1 overall.
"But it was one of those situations where Coach K is not going to let me come back," he continued. "He wants me to do what's best for my family. My teammates were saying, 'It would be dope if you came back,' but at the same time, they were telling me that I would be leaving too much. ... At the end of the day, it was kind of my mom. She said she was going to support me in whatever I do. So I was like 'I'm going back!' I think her and my stepdad talked and said, 'You worked too hard to get to this moment. You'd feel bad if you left it. So I said, 'I did work for this since I was 4 or 5 so let me go.'"
This is not the first time Zion has touched on his desire to stay at Duke. After declaring for the draft, Williamson did a cover story for Slam magazine where he said he would've stayed at Duke if it was up to him.
"This was the best year of my life. So if I could come back for a second year I would, but unfortunately that’s just not the reality we live in," Zion said then. "The reality we live in is [that] my ultimate dream is the NBA. It’s what I’ve been dreaming about as a kid so I have to pursue that. And I have to take care of my family."
The Pelicans are still waiting on Zion to make his debut. Williamson underwent knee surgery in October to repair his torn right meniscus. He returned to practice last week and insiders are hopeful he will play in his first game this month. Coach Alvin Gentry has made it clear Zion will be on minutes restrictions whenever he returns.