Zion Williamson wants to be more than a great dunker, but he is a great dunker

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Zion Williamson wants to be more than a great dunker, but he is a great dunker
12:03 AM ET

  • David M. HaleESPN Staff Writer

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    • ACC reporter.
    • Joined ESPN in 2012.
    • Graduate of the University of Delaware.

DURHAM, N.C. — Zion Williamson said one of the biggest reasons he came to Duke was that coach Mike Krzyzewski promised he would help the freshman carve out a niche beyond his established profile as a great dunker.

Three games into the process, Williamson isn’t helping his own cause. While his pass on an RJ Barrett dunk and his stellar defense against Eastern Michigan both drew praise after the game, it was once again his dunks that stole the show.

“Zion’s dunks are crazy,” fellow Blue Devils freshman Tre Jones said. “RJ had some dunks, Javin [DeLaurier] got his first dunk of the year … we have a lot of guys who dunked tonight. But I’ve gotta go with Zion’s [as the best].”

Indeed, Duke racked up 14 dunks in an 84-46 win over Eastern Michigan, with the Blue Devils putting together a season’s worth of highlight reel moves. None quite matched the sheer power of Williamson’s work, however.

The festivities started with Duke’s first points of the game, a monster dunk from Williamson.

Minutes later, Jones stole the ball and dished to Williamson, who hammered home a windmill dunk to get the crowd roaring.

He delivered another less than a minute later.

And they kept coming.

On a fast break with 10:29 to play in the first half, Cam Reddish threw an alley-oop to the rim. The pass was high, but Williamson still corralled it; then he slammed home a two-handed dunk that sent Cameron Indoor Stadium into a chaos, with guard Alex O’Connell simply shrugging his shoulders in disbelief as he made his way back down court.

“I thought I overthrew it,” Reddish said after the game. “I guess not.”

No, there are different rules for Williamson.

Krzyzewski was asked afterward if he has to pinch himself to believe what he’s seeing from his star freshman.

“At my age, when I pinch myself, nothing happens,” he joked, before marveling at the skill Williamson brings to his dunks.

“More than how high he jumps,” Krzyzewski said, “is his incredible body control. It’s crazy.”

For his part, Williamson thought his night was highlighted by a toss to Barrett for another spectacular dunk. Williamson took an outlet pass in transition, dribbled once, then lobbed a pass up that Barrett finished at the rim.

“RJ always says I don’t throw him the lob,” Williamson said, “so I finally got him one there.”

Finally? They’re three games in. But it certainly feels bigger than all that. Williamson and Barrett each have 77 points through three games, tied for the Duke freshman record. They joined Jabari Parker as the only Duke freshmen to post 20 points in each of their first three games. And of course, there’s the show-stopping work at the rim.

“We’re a very versatile team,” Williamson said. “We know how to play against multiple defenses. They were playing zone and we were able to finish.”

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