Zion Williamson was the best player in college basketball this season. While that has been widely apparent for a few months, the likely No. 1 overall pick in the 2019 NBA Draft wasn’t universally seen as a “sure thing” at the college level and, on Friday, Kentucky head coach John Calipari provided a reminder of that.
In speaking with The Dan Patrick Show, Calipari admitted that, despite heavily recruiting Williamson out of high school, he didn’t exactly envision this level of performance.
“We recruited Zion. I probably missed him a little bit,” Calipari said. “I knew he was going to be good, I didn’t know he was going to be this good. I knew he could dominate, but not like he’s done.”
While this might seem silly for those who watched Williamson dominate against high-level competition in the ACC, a few key points are important to note. For one, Calipari and Kentucky absolutely wanted Williamson to come to Lexington and they were in the mix to the end. Beyond that, recruiting services placed Williamson as a five-star prospect but he was not the biggest get for Duke, as teammate R.J. Barrett was widely ranked higher amid concerns about Williamson’s positional projection and the level of competition he faced at the college level.
Calipari later said that he exclaimed, “I missed on another one!” when discussing Williamson after playing against Duke and, of course, Kentucky would’ve been better off with him on the roster. Still, this is an instance in which hindsight is always 20-20 but Calipari can probably be absolved of any mishap in this instance.
Every program in the country would have gladly taken Zion Williamson. It’s probably fair to say that no program (not even Duke) would have expected him to be this good right away.