Duke basketball loses first player of offseason to NBA

The Duke basketball program has seen its first player of the offseason depart for the NBA. 

It is the time of the season in which the biggest names on the Duke basketball team make their future plans known and declare for the NBA Draft.

The decisions are coming a little later this year than in previous seasons, but the first Blue Devil to depart Durham early is sophomore center Mark Williams.

Williams entered Duke as a legacy prospect after his sister, Elizabeth Williams, was a superstar for the women’s basketball program and the No. 4 overall pick in the 2015 WNBA Draft.

However, Mark Williams etched out his own place in Duke basketball history as a five-star recruit who was seldom used in the early stages of his freshman season.

The 7-foot-1 center slowly developed into one of the best big men in the country, culminating with a 23-point, 19-rebound performance against Louisville in the 2021 ACC Tournament.

The Virginia Beach, Virginia native then averaged 11.2 points, 7.4 rebounds, and 2.8 blocks per game during his sophomore campaign on his way to being named the ACC’s Defensive Player of the Year.

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“Mark was a joy to coach. This is such a special moment for him and his incredible family, and we will miss having the Williamses in our program,” Mike Krzyzewski said in a press release announcing the decision.

“I want to thank Coach K and the rest of the staff for pushing me every day to be the best possible player I can be. This year was incredible…I want to congratulate Coach K on his retirement and I’m excited to see Coach Scheyer lead this new era of Duke Basketball,” Williams explained.

Duke basketball will see more decisions this week

Mark Williams is just the first decision of many that will come out of Durham this week as the deadline for underclassmen to enter the 2022 NBA Draft is Sunday, April 24 at 11:59 p.m. EST.

The Blue Devils will see decisions being made by Paolo Banchero, Wendell Moore, AJ Griffin, Trevor Keels, and Jeremy Roach.

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Duke was, at one point this season, expected to have five players leave the program early for the professional ranks, but that number might be trimmed to four when all decisions become finalized.

Mark Williams is projected to be selected at No. 13 overall in the most recent Bleacher Report mock draft, published on Saturday afternoon.