The recruitment of Zion Williamson was a wild and memorable one, though not in a good way for Kentucky Basketball.
At one point, it appeared very likely that Zion would end up in Lexington for his one season of college basketball. There was even talk of a package deal with fellow 2018 recruit Immanuel Quickley, who did end up signing with UK.
But as his recruitment wore on, it was clear Zion wasn’t favoring UK as much we all thought going into the fall. Clemson became the public favorite going into his January decision, and there were few who thought UK was going to be the pick.
However, Zion shocked everyone and picked a blue-blooded powerhouse, though it wasn’t the one from Lexington. Instead, Zion opted for the Duke Blue Devils, giving them the unquestioned No. 1 recruiting class in 2018, not to mention a likely preseason No. 1 ranking when the 2018-19 college hoops season begins.
But how close did UK actually come to landing Zion?
In an interview with SEC Country’s Joe Mussatto, Zion opened up about how close UK was to landing his services.
“[Kentucky] came very close,” Williamson said. “I had a good relationship with Coach Cal. He always kept it 100 percent with me.”
Alas, UK is left to wonder what could have been. With Zion, UK would have the No. 1 recruiting class and likely be the preseason favorite to win it all next season.
Saying all of this, not getting Zion does probably help at least some bit with Kevin Knox’s impending NBA decision. If Zion were going to be on next year’s team, that would reduce the kind of impact Knox could have, thus making it easier for him to pick the NBA Draft.
But with no Zion, Knox has a chance to return for his sophomore season and be the unquestioned leader of next year’s team, which would suddenly become a Final Four favorite. He’d also have the chance to put up the kind of numbers that would have him in the running for national player of the year awards, and he could even go higher in the 2019 NBA Draft.
So maybe, just maybe, there can be some glimmer of light in Zion not picking UK.