On June 22, Zion Williamson took an unofficial visit to North Carolina. Heading into the visit, and because of the amount of attention he’d been receiving from other schools, he felt an offer from UNC and Roy Williams was imminent.
What Williams told him, however, was that he likes to build a relationship with players he’s recruiting. He likes to get to know them better on a personal level. Once that bond is established, then Williams usually follows through with an offer.
After a month of conversations about life off the basketball court, and evaluations of Williamson’s game on it, Williams offered the Spartanburg, S.C. native a scholarship on Monday night.
"He called and he told me what he told me when I went up there, he said he just wanted to build a good relationship with me," Williamson said after getting off the phone with the Tar Heel head coach. "He said he saw me in games where I played at my best and saw me when I could’ve played better, he told me the thing he liked about is that I’m just a basketball player.
"We had a good conversation about him recruiting me, him still going to take the time to recruit me even though he has to focus on the rising senior class.
"To have somebody like Roy Williams call your phone and offer you a scholarship, most kids don’t get that opportunity. All I can say is I’m blessed."
Arguably no player boosted his national stock more on the circuit this year than Williamson.
"(The last four months) have been the greatest basketball experience of my life," he said.
Dynamic performances on the adidas AAU circuit and at the NBPA Top 100 Camp catapulted the 6-7, 220-pound class of 2018 forward from regional star to national elite. At NBPA camp in June, Williamson led the event in scoring with 14.6 points per game, and also pulled down 5.2 rebounds per game. He shot 66.4 percent from the field and 77.2 percent from the free-throw line. Williamson made at least 54 percent of his shots in all but two of nine games.
"Williamson proved this summer that he's not only a likely McDonald's All-American talent, but he established that he now belongs in the conversation among the elite prospects in the 2018 class,” said Inside Carolina recruiting director Rob Harrington. “He doesn't look the part but is an explosive and surprisingly nimble athlete who also brings outstanding strength and aggression to the court. The southpaw also has improved his facing jump shot and could become an immediate impact player at the next level."
In North Carolina’s system, Williams explained last month, Williamson slots as a combo forward.
“He said he can see me playing like a ‘3’ and a ‘4,’ because they run a wide offense and only the ‘5’ posts up,” said Williamson. “The ‘3’ and ‘4’ are trail men in their offense and have decisions to shoot, pass or cut. It doesn’t really matter to me because I want to win.”
As Williams told Williamson, above all else, he'll be a terrific member of a college basketball team.
"He said I’m just a basketball player," Williamson added. "He said he likes how I’m not selfish at all, if a teammate is open I’m going to pass to him without hesitation. He said he’s going to really recruit me hard, he’s going to try to build a family type relationship with me. He also talked about (UNC commitment) Rechon Black, I’m good friends with him, saying he’s already built a bond with him."
UNC joins an offer list for Williamson that includes Arizona, Clemson, Florida, South Carolina, UCLA, Virginia and others - with more assuredly joining the list in the near future.
"I’m just going to try and enjoy the moment while it lasts," Williamson said. "(Coach Williams and I) didn’t talk about visits or not, but when I went up there to visit he told me I could try and make it to as many home basketball games as possible.
"I’m still going to look and see if the school fits my style of play, if me and mom feel it’s the best place and my relationship with the coaching staff."