“He wants to play,” Mike Krzyzewski said after Williamson cheered on his teammates from the bench during their victory Saturday at Syracuse. “He loves being at Duke. He doesn’t like being injured.”
The freshman star went down with what the team said was a Grade 1, or minor, sprain when his Nike sneaker fell apart on his foot, causing him to slip and wrench his knee in the loss to North Carolina. As the presumptive top pick in the NBA draft if he decides to turn pro, Williamson’s future already had been the topic of debate, but the conversation reached a fever pitch after the injury, with present and former NBA players urging him to shut it down for the rest of the season. Why continue to play and risk an injury that would jeopardize his future (and future earnings), the argument went? According to Krzyzewski, Duke and Williamson, who’s listed as day-to-day, are being prudent.
“He’s handled everything all year great. He’s such a great kid,” Krzyzewski said. “We would never play a kid who’s not ready to play. We would never play a youngster who didn’t want to play. So it’s not about that.”
Sporting a fresh pair of Nikes, Williamson was a vocal cheerleader and de facto coach during the game Saturday.
“It’s an injury you can get over in a shorter period of time,” Krzyzewski said. “There’s just a protocol we have to go through to make sure he’s completely ready. We’re not going to rush anything. That’s why we said ‘day-to-day,’ because it’s literally day-to-day.”
Williamson opted to travel with the team to Syracuse rather than stay in Durham, N.C., saying, according to Krzyzewski, “Coach, I want to be with my guys.” That was fine with his coach, who said he told him, “Okay, just be you on the bench and be you in the locker room.”
“And he was,” Krzyzewski added.
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