Top UNC Target Zion Williams Seizes National Spotlight

Firmly entrenched as a top-5 prospect in the junior class, Williamson is making a case for No. 1.

COLUMBIA, S.C. - Every person who attended the first night of the 2016 Chick-Fil-A Classic will have a story to tell about Zion Williamson.

After all there are certain moments in sports, in a young player's career, that stick with you. Moments that make an impression.

Take UNC freshman guard Seventh Woods for example.

It's been exactly three years since he made waves at the 2013 Chick-Fil-A classic, throwing down a dunk that provided additional national exposure, even though he already had a mixtape with tens of millions of views. The play was ranked higher than LeBron James on SportsCenter's top 10 that night - which is no easy task. It helped take Woods from talented recruit to South Carolina legend.

Williamson didn't have one defining moment on Tuesday night in front of Roy Williams, Brad Brownell, Frank Martin and the entire South Carolina basketball team, instead he had an entire game that elevated him from the already rare air he resides in, to something different entirely.

National stardom. 

Williamson is no longer just a high-major recruit with offers from Kentucky, Duke, UNC, Kansas, Louisville and Arizona.

He's basketball's next big thing.

"I'm enjoying this," Williamson said with a smile after the game. 

The same can't be said for West Columbia (S.C.) Gray Collegiate.

Williamson set a tournament record (and career high) with 53 points - shooting 25-of-28 from the field - while pulling down 16 rebounds. He was a perfect 24-of-24 from inside the arc in one of the most dominant performances in South Carolina history.

"He's such a tremendous athlete and gifted kid and basketball player," said Spartanburg (S.C.) Day head coach Lee Sartor. "I see him do amazing things every day in practice. To see him do this, what he did tonight, it doesn't surprise me. He's such a competitor. And you normally don't get a kid with the work ethic and basketball skills he has all in one. And when you get that, you have Zion Williamson."

It's been a pretty amazing transformation for Williamson. In the spring of 2015, he was a little-known point guard from Spartanburg with a couple of mid-major scholarship offers. Then came a growth spurt in the fall. Then came offers from South Carolina and Clemson. Then came dominant performances this past spring and summer on the Adidas circuit. Each time, it seems, Williamson sets his sights on something, he gets it.

There are a few goals remaining for Williamson, who won't enroll at the college of his choice for almost 18 months. He wants to continue to increase his three-point accuracy and become better off the dribble.

"A lot has changed (for me)," Williamson said. "More college coaches call my phone. More people follow me on social media. I guess more people pay attention to my life in general. I'm just enjoying it."

Added Sartor: "His goal is to be the No. 1 player in the country in all of the polls and I think he's on the way to that happening."

Tonight, more than an hour before tipoff, the public address announcer asked fans in the already-packed gym to squeeze tighter together because more than 1,000 people were waiting in line outside. All, presumably, to see Williamson.

"He's probably one of the most humble kids I've ever coached," said Sartor. "For kids to run up to him and want autographs, I think he handles it like a professional. You would think he's a whole lot older than 16. He doesn't take anything for granted. He doesn't take people for granted or their appreciation of him."


Inside Carolina Top Stories