Zion Williamson wanted to return to Duke, bypass 2019 NBA Draft

Jan 6, 2020; New Orleans, Louisiana, USA; New Orleans Pelicans forward Zion Williamson prior to tip off against the Utah Jazz at the Smoothie King Center. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

Even before he stepped on the court at Cameron Indoor Stadium in Durham, Zion Williamson was projected to be the No. 1 overall pick in the 2019 NBA Draft.

It was a foregone conclusion that the generational talent would be one-and-done at Duke. Once Williamson declared after a dominating freshman season and was selected first overall by the New Orleans Pelicans, immediate NBA stardom seemed to be on the horizon.

That has changed to an extent with Williamson sitting out the first few months of his rookie season with a knee injury.

Williamson just recently talked about his decision-making process leading up to the 2019 NBA Draft. You’ll be surprised by his take.

“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 it because I genuinely love the game,” Williamson said on teammate JJ Redick’s podcast. “I just loved my experience at Duke that much where I wanted to say.”

That has to be considered a shocking thought process from Williamson. But once he suffered a knee injury against the rival North Carolina Tar Heels, it became clear that Williamson had to turn pro. He couldn’t risk further injury at the collegiate level.

Interestingly enough, said injury bug popped up during the preseason and has cost Williamson the first few months of his rookie season.

The good news here is that he’s set to return at some point soon.