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Adam Zagoria covers basketball at all levels. He is the author of two books and an award-winning journalist whose articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Sports Illustrated, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide.
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Friday / August 17.
  • Coach K calls 6-foot-7, 285-pound Zion Williamson ‘graceful,’ has no concerns about his weight

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    By ADAM ZAGORIA

    When Duke’s official measurements came out last month, freshman sensation Zion Williamson was listed at 6 feet, 7 inches and 285 pounds, causing the Internet to go spastic.

    “Zion Williamson is comically large as he enters Duke as a super freshman,” blared one SBNation.com headline.

    “Top NBA prospect Zion Williamson would be second-heaviest player in NBA,” declared a Hoopshype.com headline, pointing out that only 7-foot-3 Clippers center Boban Marjanovic weighs more

    The SBNation story had several great statistics, including these:

    • He’s listed as one inch shorter and 35 pounds heavier than LeBron James.
    • He’s 100 pounds heavier than Oklahoma City Thunder wing Terrance Ferguson, who is also listed at 6’7.
    • He is almost identical size to Yankees slugger Aaron Judge, who is listed at 6’7, 282 pounds.
    Yet Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski — he of the five NCAA championships and three Olympic gold medals — says he has absolutely no concerns about Williamson’s size and went so far as to call him “graceful.”

    “He’s graceful,” Coach K said Friday on a conference call ahead of Duke’s Canadian tour which begins Wednesday in Toronto. “His lateral movement and speed and anticipation is off the charts. He can drive, he can post up, he understands the really game well. I know that everyone has watched him on YouTube with all the dunking and obivously that’s impressive but he’s a heck of a basketball player.”

    Coach K added: “He’s a gifted athlete. We’ve never had anyone exactly like him, which is OK. He’s a gifted athlete, a great kid.

    “At that weight or approximately that weight, he moves as fast as anybody, jumps higher than anybody and he’s alert. We’re not talking about someone who has excess body fat. This is a kid that’s in pretty darn good shape and just has a man’s mass. It’s more mass and strength than any type of excess weight. I’m not concerned about that. He’s done really well.”

    Williamson, projected as a Top-10 pick in the 2019 NBA Draft, is part of a blockbuster freshmen class that includes projected No. 1 pick R.J. Barrett, Cam Reddish, Tre Jones and Joey Baker.

    While this group prides itself on their ability to play “positionless basketball,” Williamson is the athletic freak of the group. He had a reported 45-inch vertical leap at Duke.

    As Steve Wiseman of NewsObserver.com put it, “That puts him in the neighborhood of celebrated leapers like Michael Jordan (46 inches), David Thompson (44 inches) and Vince Carter (43 inches).”

    Williamson, who chose Duke over Clemson, South Carolina, Kentucky and others, has 1.6 million Instagram followers and 139,000 Twitter followers who are obsessesed with his athleticism and dunking abilities.

    Williamson will likely make ESPN’s Top Ten plays several times for his dunks, but he’s not going to make that his bread and butter in college.

    “If it’s there it’s there, but this is college, not high school anymore,” Williamson told NewsObserver.com. “I can’t afford to do the highlight dunk and miss it because, if I do that, I’ll be sitting right on the bench beside the coaches. So if it’s there and we have a reasonable lead, maybe. But, if not, two points, get back on defense.”

    For his part, Krzyzewski says he’s still learning about Williamson’s game and how he can maximize his skill set.

    “I’ve learned a lot of about him in this last month and he’s a great, great kid to coach and such a unique player,” Coach K said Friday. “We have to keep learning about him so I know how to max out how we use him. I don’t think we’ll find that out until we get Cam and Tre playing on a daily basis because they’re very unselfish all these kids. In the limited time that Tre or Cam have played in practice. They’re very secure, very secure guys and all they’re interested in doing is having fun playing and winning. Those are really good things.”

    Williamson, in turn, hopes to absorb as much as he can from Coach K in what will likely be his only year at Duke.

    “He’s been through so much,” Williamson told NewsObserver.com. “His intelligence for the game is off the charts. I honestly wish more people could see how he thinks the game through. He could draw up a real simple play and you’d be like, `that play is not going to work.’ And it will be wide open and you’ll see the game is so simple.”

    JONES, REDDISH WON’T PLAY IN CANADA

    Two of Duke’s freshmen, Tre Jones (hip) and Cam Reddish (groin), won’t play on the Canadian tour due to injuries.

    “Tre Jones is doing well, he’s coming back from a hip injury,” Coach K said. “He’s involved in some basketball-related activities now and then Cameron Reddish is nursing a strained groin and he’s doing some basketball-related activities. They both will be with us but will not play.”

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    Adam Zagoria is a Basketball Insider who covers basketball at all levels. A contributor to The New York Times and SportsNet New York (SNY), he is also the author of two books and is an award-winning journalist and filmmaker. His articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide. He also won an Emmy award for his work on the SNY mini-documentary on Syracuse guard Tyus Battle. A veteran Ultimate Frisbee player, he has competed in numerous National and World Championships and, perhaps more importantly, his teams won the Westchester Summer League (WSL) championships in 2011 and 2013. He lives in Manhattan with his wife and children.