Zion Williamson's first North Carolina game was a memorable one. Not because of the Tar Heels’ blowout win over UNC Pembroke or because of the students and fans who recognized him outside of the arena.
“We got there a couple of minutes into the game,” said Williamson, a 2018 forward from Spartanburg (S.C.) Day School. “A couple of nice people who work for North Carolina led us to our seats. (I was with) one of my good friends Jalek Felton and another friend Garrison Brooks, and it was also my first time meeting (2017 UNC commitment) Andrew Platek in person. Throughout the game me, Jalek and Garrison were talking a lot about how it would be if all of us went to North Carolina."
Williamson and Felton, both South Carolina natives, talk quite often. They keep up with each other's performance on the court and try to occasionally make the other’s games.
“He’s trying to convince me to commit to North Carolina early,” Williamson said. “He tells me that it’s North Carolina. It’s a family environment. He says that playing in Chapel Hill… that there’s nothing like it. He said the fans are the best in the world and that he loves it.”
Brooks and Williamson met at the Adidas Nations camp in California this past August and have kept in contact since.
When he wasn't talking with Brooks and Felton, Williamson, the No. 2 overall player in the junior class, was keeping an eye on UNC junior forward Justin Jackson.
"I was paying attention to Justin Jackson because if I were go to North Carolina, I’d be playing his position. I wanted to see how they would play him. I liked (how they used him) because they played him in different spots because he’s versatile. I like how they play team basketball and it’s not one person trying to steal the whole show for themselves."
After the game, Williamson and his family met with Roy Williams and assistant C.B. McGrath. They headed back to Spartanburg in the morning.
"Their message to me was that I'm their top priority for 2018," Williamson said. "They're going to recruit me the hardest and Coach Williams said he's going to use all of his visits to come down and watch me play."
This was Williamson's second recruiting visit to UNC. He was on campus in late June for an initial campus tour and meetings with the coaching staff.
In addition to North Carolina, Williamson said he hears from Clemson, Duke, Arizona, Florida, South Carolina and Oregon regularly.
"I'm actually enjoying the process, because most kids don't have my opportunities," he said. "So i just look at it (attention) from the positive side."
He hopes to make a commitment in just about a year, during the fall 2017 signing period.
"Obviously a family environment where I'll feel like I'm at home is important to me," explained Williamson of his decision. "I am trying to go somewhere and kind of team up with a couple teammates or friends of mine. For me, location isn't a problem at all. But most of all, it's that family thing... it's the type of bond I have with the coach that will be most important."
And what is his bond like with Williams?
"We have a pretty good bond," he said. "Most coaches text, but he's one of those coaches who would rather call and talk to you on the phone. I like that."
Williamson has no other unofficial visits planned as he looks to focus on his junior season. He and his Spartanburg (S.C.) Day teammates open their season on Nov. 15.