NBA Draft 2019: Six things we learned from Zion Williamson's interview

By Bob Hille 20 June 2019 497
NBA Draft 2019: Six things we learned from Zion Williamson's interview

When his name is called on Thursday night, and it will be called first in the 2019 NBA Draft, Zion Williamson is not sure how he'll react.

It is the one uncertainty he admitted to before an assembled throng of reporters at the league's pre-draft media availability in midtown Manhattan on Wednesday.

"Honestly, I don't know. I don't know how I'm going to react," he said. "I don't know if I'm going to cry or have this giant smile on my face.

"We'll see tomorrow night. But I know I'm very excited about it."

Outside of that admission, Williamson offered a mix of self-assessment, draft scouting and, yes, humour as he patiently and calmly answered a half-hour's worth of questions from the media. There were no huge reveals. But there were a few telling comments.

Here is a half-dozen things we learned from Zion Williamson on Wednesday:

 

1. He's not just a physical specimen.

You have no doubt seen the vast array of rim-rattling dunks, altered shots made from awkward angles and, yes, his head rim-high on the defensive end.

But the physical side is only part of the story.

"One thing I'm good at is just my will to win," Williamson said. "I feel like when I want to win, I'll do things, I'll do whatever I need to do to win."

2. He's not "the next."

As the projected number one pick (he was careful to couch most of his answers with "if" he is the top pick), Williamson is hearing a lot of comparisons with NBA superstars who have come before him. That is fine, but he is out to cut his own incomparable path.

"Honestly, with the comparison stuff, it's nice, it's cool, but I don't look into it," he said. "I just look to be myself. I'm not trying to be nobody.

"I'm just trying to be the first Zion."

3. He's not feeling any pressure as the projected top pick.

Seemingly relaxed and frequently smiling during the 30-minute interview with a densely packed group of reporters, Williamson appeared thoroughly at ease with the world he is in now and the one he is about to be the centre of.

"I don't really see the pressure," he said. "I'm doing what I love to do, and that's play basketball. I don't try to live up to nobody's expectations. They can set them there, I don't try to live up to them.

"I just try to be me, be the best version of myself that I can be."

4. He thinks former Duke team-mate R.J. Barrett will shine in the NBA …

But enough about Zion. The pre-draft media availability was in New York, after all. So, just spit balling here, if the New York Knicks were to draft Barrett, would he live up to fans' high expectations?

"R.J. is cold-blooded. He's built for people doubting him or telling him he's not ready. R.J. is built for that," Williamson said. "I got to see it first-hand at Duke. I don't doubt R.J. in the slightest. If he gets drafted out here, he's going to come out here and handle his business.

"I think they'll get a great player."

5. … and former AAU team-mate (and fellow South Carolinian) Ja Morant is a revelation.

Williamson recounted Morant's ability to make a pass that would surprise even its intended target: Williamson.

"I'd make backdoor cuts, and I didn't think he would see me," Williamson recalled. "But he'd put it in the perfect spot.

"Can I sit here and say I knew Ja would be this good? I can't say that. I knew he'd be good but not to this level. For him to be here and to be like a top-three pick, it means a lot to me, it means a lot to the state of South Carolina."

6. He didn't order the kid's meal at Commander’s Palace.

Williams ate at the world-renowned (and James Beard Award-winning) New Orleans restaurant with Pelicans brass last week as a part of his pre-draft visit.

"I've been seeing some people saying I got chicken tenders," he said. "No, that was my five-year-old brother that did that. I got fried shrimp with some mashed potatoes."

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Bob Hille

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