Probably the biggest question in high school basketball will get an answer in two weeks: Where is Zion Williamson going to college?
Williamson, a star player at Spartanburg Day, announced on Twitter this week that he’ll make his college decision on Jan. 20.
But could he be about to shock the college basketball world and choose Clemson?
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to The Charlotte Observer
Williamson is a 6-foot-6, 260-pound senior who is known for his rim-rattling dunks. He’s ranked among the nation’s top three recruits in the class of 2018. He’s said to be down to six possible schools: Clemson, Duke, Kansas, Kentucky, North Carolina and South Carolina.
A lot of signs, at least in the recruiting world, have Williamson staying near home to attend Clemson and play for the Tigers.
247Sports analyst Evan Daniels, who has a pretty good track record with his “Crystal Ball” projections, has Williamson going to play for Brad Bownell and Clemson.
In a recent roundtable discussion on 247, Daniels said: “In terms of where he might land, nearly all of the talk has centered on Clemson. I can’t say that I think he’s definitively going to Clemson, but they are certainly getting all of the buzz. Staying home has always been discussed as a legitimate option and there is a very strong relationship with the coaching staff. I’m not sure how much it factors in, if any, but Williamson’s stepfather/advisor Lee Anderson played at Clemson for three years.”
247 collected predictions from 28 national recruiting experts. Seventeen predicted Williamson would attend go to Clemson. Seven had Kentucky. Two had UNC, one had Kansas, and one was not sure.
Carolinas recruiting expert Rick Lewis also believes Williamson will attend Clemson. Lewis covers the Carolinas closely for his Phenom Hoop Report service.
“My gut says Clemson,” Lewis said. “Zion is a local kid who has stayed home to play for a local high school team when he had opportunities to go elsewhere. He’s got a unique skill set blessed with unbelievable athleticism. He can be a local and state legend. He’s a one-and-done no matter where he goes. Why not do it for your hometown school?”
Williamson has only played two games this season while nursing a foot injury. He averaged 37 points and 16.5 rebounds in just 15.5 minutes. High school games run 32 minutes. Williamson is expected to return to the court this month.
Getting Williamson would be a major coup for Clemson, which hasn’t made the NCAA tournament since 2011. Clemson was 17-16 under coach Brad Brownell last season. Since the 2011 NCAA appearance, Clemson has only had one season with 20 or more wins.
ESPN’s Jeff Goodman reported that Brownell nearly lost his job after last season.
“It came down to the wire a year ago whether Brownell would still be the Tigers’ head coach this season,” Goodman wrote, “but athletic director Dan Radakovich gave him another season. Brownell went to the NCAA tourney in 2011, his first season, but hasn't been back in the past six years. Brownell's deal was actually extended through 2021, but the buyout dropped from $3.5 million to $1.7 million.”
Williamson, who has 1.1 million Instagram followers, could boost Clemson to a big season and an NCAA tournament appearance as well as more national television games, which could help recruiting and boost attendance. In 2009-10, Clemson averaged 9,465 fans. In 2012-13, that number dipped to 7,800.
This season, Clemson is 13-1, ranked No. 25 nationally in the USA Today Coaches Poll, and is averaging 7,061 fans per home game.