Zion Williamson puts on a show in prime time
SPRINGFIELD, Mass. — Spartanburg Day School star Zion Williamson put on a show in his ESPN prime time debut on Saturday night with 36 points, but the Griffins fell to Chino Hills (Calif.) at the Spalding Hoophall Classic, 70-64.
Springfield College played host to the game, and Williamson, the nation’s No. 2 recruit according to most services, fulfilled fan hopes before tip-off with self-made alley oops and windmill dunks that sent cheers throughout the arena. He was playing in just his second game since returning from a foot injury, scoring 31 points in the Griffins’ win on Thursday over Asheville Christian.
Chino Hills won the opening tip and scored their first bucket of the game. The Huskies quickly retreated to their defensive end of the floor and setup their 2-3 zone defense, which proved to be effective.
Standing in the heart of that defense was forward Onyeka Okongwu, ranked No. 16 in the ESPN 100, who finished with 35 points and 14 rebounds.
Despite the strategic move from Huskies head coach Dennis Latimore, Williamson put up a quiet 18 points in the first half. However, the intensity that usually fuels Williamson’s game was mostly hidden in the first two quarters.
“My teammates and I, we just got a little complacent. We starting shooting the open 3 just because it was open when we should have kept driving because it was working for us,” Williamson said. “I feel like their offense, when they were starting to get their putbacks, fueled them to play harder on defense.”
Going into the break, the Griffins found themselves down by three, and the Huskies were able to keep them at bay in the second half.
Williamson was more active and agile after halftime, and went 16 of 25 from the field on the night with six rebounds and two blocks. Most of his points came from his ability to muscle his way to rim, but his jumper seemed to lack assurance.
“I feel like I’m making a lot of progress. Still probably not as confident as I want to be because when I miss one I feel like I need to stop,” Williamson added.
Following the Hoophall Classic, the Griffins have two games before Williamson is set to get on stage for his decision day. The final six schools that Williamson is choosing from are thought to be Kansas, Kentucky, Duke, North Carolina, South Carolina and Clemson.
That date is set for Jan. 20 at Spartanburg Day School, but Williamson said his mind will be made up during the middle of the week.
“I’m very excited for that day because it’s my mom’s birthday. That’s just a big thank you for all the sacrifices that she made for me,” Williamson said.