With Duke’s 68-67 loss to Michigan State in Sunday night’s East Regional final in the 2019 NCAA men’s basketball tournament, all signs point to superstar forward Zion Williamson heading to the NBA after one year in the collegiate ranks. As seen on his ESPN player page, Williamson’s freshman season ended with averages of 22.6 points, 8.9 rebounds, 2.1 assists, 2.1 steals, and 1.8 blocks in 33 games and a 68 percent shooting clip from the field — an impressive all-around stat line that could cement his status as the most likely first overall pick in the 2019 NBA Draft. But where does he rank when compared to other “one-and-done” college stars who took their talents to the pros right after their respective freshman campaigns?
In a report published by Yahoo Sports on Monday, Jeff Eisenberg and Henry Bushnell ranked the top 10 one-and-done players of all time based solely on their accomplishments in the college ranks. Despite Duke’s failure to make it to the Final Four in this year’s NCAA men’s basketball tournament, Williamson was ranked No. 3, right ahead of current Golden State Warriors star Kevin Durant and his freshman season in Texas.
According to Bushnell, who wrote the entry for Williamson, the 6-foot-7-inch, 285-pound Blue Devils forward was “phenomenally efficient” and “transcendent,” as he did more than just dominate the stat sheet and shoot with great accuracy during his time in Duke.
“More importantly, he was the first college player in a while who made you stare agape at a television screen every time he took the floor. Whether it was the effortless dunks or the ferocious blocks or, heck, the soaring rebounds, he was a never-ending human highlight reel.”
Bushnell, who further predicted that Zion Williamson could win “every end-of-year award” he qualifies for, added that his place as the No. 3 one-and-done freshman of all time is also deserved because of how his “supposedly talented” teammates were only able to win three of six games while he was out injured. Still, he added that Williamson failed to top the list because of a few things, including how he wasn’t always able to dominate the college game as many had expected him to.
As for the top two one-and-done freshmen, Eisenberg and Bushnell ranked Carmelo Anthony (Syracuse, 2002-03) and Anthony Davis (Kentucky, 2011-12) as No. 1 and No. 2 respectively, stressing that both players were able to put up great statistical numbers while also leading their respective teams to an NCAA championship.
On a similar note, The New York Post published its own list of top 10 “freshmen seasons over the last 20 years,” but likewise only included one-and-done players. Much like in the aforementioned Yahoo Sports list, Williamson was ranked No. 3, though Davis ended up edging Anthony for the No. 1 spot as the top NCAA freshman of the last two decades.