Duke basketball: Zion Williamson’s presence jumpstarted Cinderella run

Duke basketball star Zion Williamson (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Duke basketball star Zion Williamson (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images) /

Duke basketball star Zion Williamson helped start a Cinderella run in the NCAA Tournament. 

Zion Williamson has accomplished a lot in his basketball career, but not even the former Duke basketball star could have envisioned what his presence helped create at Oral Roberts.

Every time Williamson took the floor either in a high school game or on the AAU circuit, all eyes and cameras focused on the future National Player of the Year.

Every school and coach in the country wanted to get an up-close look at the 6-foot-6 forward and his jaw-dropping abilities to try and lure the star to their program…except one.

Oral Roberts.

In a sit-down interview this week with NCAA.com’s Andy Katz, Oral Roberts head coach Paul Mills credited Williamson’s presence on the AAU circuit with him landing star forward Kevin Obanor:

"“Well, Kevin Obanor, I remember watching him in an AAU event in South Carolina, and he came down with a rebound and went up and dunked it pretty forcefully. And Zion Williamson was playing at the same time, and everyone was [where Zion was playing], and I looked around to see if anybody else was around who saw that dunk, and I was like ‘Oh, thank goodness no one else was over here.’ And as soon as that event was over, I got on the phone.”"

The full interview can be seen below on the March Madness Twitter profile:


As a junior at Oral Roberts, Obanor has averaged double-figures in each of his first three seasons, and this year he has been sensational, averaging 19.0 points, 9.6 rebounds, and 1.1 assists per game while shooting 50.1-percent from the floor and 47.0-percent from three-point range.

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In the Summit League Championship, the Houston, Texas native posted 21 points and nine rebounds against North Dakota State as the Golden Eagles earned a No. 15 seed in NCAA Tournament, but that didn’t slow the 6-foot-8 forward down.

Against No. 2 seed Ohio State, Obanor had 30 points and 11 rebounds in an overtime victory, which was the first NCAA Tournament win for Oral Roberts since 1974.

However, the team didn’t just stop in the Round of 64. In the Round of 32, the Golden Eagles downed the No. 7 seed Florida Gators in a comeback victory behind 28 points and 11 rebounds from Obanor.

All sides benefit because of Duke basketball star

It was a total win-win situation for Duke and Oral Roberts because of the presence of Zion Williamson on the AAU circuit.

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The Blue Devils landed Williamson and all the greatness he brought to Durham while the Golden Eagles landed their version of the NBA All-Star who has catapulted them to the best run in school history.

We’ll see if the magical run can continue as Oral Roberts will face No. 3 seed Arkansas in the Sweet 16 on Saturday, March 27 at 7:25pm EST (TBS).

Next. Duke players react to the transfer decision of Jaemyn Brakefield. dark