Zion Williamson made his Duke debut Friday night, at Cameron Indoor Stadium. He put a show on for the fans at the team’s annual “Countdown to Craziness” event. But afterward, coach Mike Krzyzewski downplayed concerns about potential NCAA issues that could keep his star off the court later this season. It seems that Williamson’s recruitment has become fodder in the college basketball gossip mill this week when FBI tapes indicated that his stepfather had asked for money and a job from Kansas. A transcript of the calls was read to the courtroom during the trial Tuesday, but the tapes were not admitted as evidence. What does this mean for Williamson? Maybe nothing, but if it’s determined that he might have ties to this corruption scandal, he might be in trouble.
Krzyzewski has said that he has no concerns that the tapes would contain evidence that would endanger Williamson’s eligibility and that Duke has already been through “exhaustive” background research with the NCAA. In fact, in order to be deemed eligible, these kids’ parents also have to be vetted. And it sounds like he has support from his team, so is there anything to worry about?
On the court, Duke’s freshmen made their presence known throughout the 20-minute exhibition. Williamson dunked on his first touch and added a few highlight-reel finishes at the rim, including a pair of windmill-style dunks that whipped the crowd into a frenzy. Fans held up “10” signs, indicating how they would like Williamson to perform, kind of like at the Olympics. In fact, after the game, Williamson was awarded the “Iron Devil” belt, which is basically a gaudy gold wrestling belt given to the top performer. While this wasn’t an actual game, it shows that he has the skills and the expertise that Duke is interested in.
This game gets fans excited for the season, and it happens annually. Like I said – it’s not a real game, but it is something that gets fans engaged and looking forward to the upcoming season. But all of this doesn’t undermine the fact that Williamson’s name came up as part of this corruption scandal. But, as I’ve mentioned, the tapes weren’t entered into evidence in the trial. While it’s Williamson’s stepfather who the conversation is actually about, Williamson himself does get mentioned in order to provide context to the conversation.
Regardless of what went down here, I think the way that the NCAA works is incredibly interesting. While I think that players are losing out in many ways, I don’t know that they should be “paid” in the traditional sense. That said, the fact that they aren’t paid is what is leading to a lot of these issues. Maybe not this case exactly, but the fact that college players aren’t paid is extremely controversial. Over the years players have been caught up in some business that the NCAA doesn’t agree with and have been deemed ineligible to play. But the reward, at times, seems to outweigh the risk, which makes you wonder if the NCAA rules are outdated?
Perhaps, though, the NCAA is turning a blind eye in this Williamson case. Maybe they don’t want to know the answer? No one is suggesting anything nefarious on the part of the team itself or even Krzyzewski, but something has happened and it’s only a matter of time before the truth comes out.