• 48°

NBA Draft: As expected, Zion goes No. 1 to Pelicans

Williams goes first in the NBA Draft

AP Photo/Julio Cortez …
Duke’s Zion Williamson, right, greets fans as he is introduced during the NBA Draft, Thursday night, in New York. At left is Williamson’s mother, Sharonda Sampson Anderson, who participated in track and field while attending Livingstone College.

By Brian Mahoney

AP Basketball Writer

NEW YORK (AP) — Zion Williamson plays with force and ferocity, a Hulk in hightops who looks like he’d never show a soft side.

Draft night proved otherwise.

Williamson was the No. 1 pick of the New Orleans Pelicans — a surprise to nobody who watched basketball this past season. But afterward he couldn’t hide his emotions, even though he along with everyone else knew what would happen Thursday night.

“Because I love the game of basketball,” he said. “You can hear people say things like, ‘Oh, that it was likely I was going to go No. 1.’ But I guess you don’t know until you actually go through it. Hearing my name called and I was able to make it on stage without a tear, shake the commissioner’s hand, but in the interview my mom was standing beside me, and my emotions just took over.”

There might be tears of joy in New Orleans, too, after the Pelicans were able to get the Duke powerhouse who is considered one of the most exciting prospects in years.

The 6-foot-7, 285-pounder compiled a career worth of highlights into just one season, becoming the third freshman to be voted player of the year by The Associated Press.

His assault on the rims made him a favorite of college basketball fans, but his game is more than just dunks. Williamson averaged 22.6 points and 8.9 rebounds while shooting 68% from the field.

Wearing a white suit, he hugged members of his family and NBA Commissioner Adam Silver after his name was called first at Barclays Center.

Williamson will step into an open position in New Orleans, which recently agreed to trade All-Star Anthony Davis, the last freshman to win the AP award, to the Los Angeles Lakers.

“I’m going to do anything to win. I’m just going to do anything to win,” Williamson said.

The Memphis Grizzlies also quickly addressed a positional need by taking Murray State’s Ja Morant with the No. 2 pick. The Grizzlies agreed to trade Mike Conley, their longtime point guard, to Utah a day earlier.

They got a good replacement in Morant, who led Division I with 10 assists per game as a sophomore while averaging 24.5 points.

“I have some big shoes to fill in Mike Conley,” Morant said. “He’s a great player. I wish him the best. Like I said before, it just means the Grizzlies see a lot in me.”

RJ Barrett then made it two Duke freshmen within the top-three picks when the New York Knicks took the guard who actually edged out Williamson to lead the Atlantic Coast Conference in scoring. Knicks fans hoped they would get Williamson after finishing with the worst record in the league but seemed happy to end up with Barrett, loudly cheering and chanting “RJ! RJ!” when the pick was announced.

Barrett was also in tears after landing with the team he hoped would pick him.

De’Andre Hunter of national champion Virginia was taken fourth but won’t be teaming up with Williamson. The Pelicans acquired the rights to the pick in the Davis deal but agreed to trade it shortly before the draft to Atlanta. The original trade can’t be official until July 6, so Hunter was outfitted with a Lakers hit and the draft board behind the stage listed the pick as belonging to the Lakers.

The Cleveland Cavaliers then took Vanderbilt guard Darius Garland, who played in just five games because of a knee injury.

Then it was another pick who won’t be playing for the team that made it, with Jarrett Culver taken at No. 6 by Phoenix with a pick that the Suns agreed to trade to Minnesota.

Comments

News

During early mornings and weekends, F&M Bank handled hundreds of Paycheck Protection Program loans

Coronavirus

Salisbury VA uses appointment model for COVID-19 vaccinations, tops 3,300 doses

Local

Response remains mixed as city continues gathering public input on downtown street plan

Education

Community offers support for, memories of Knox teacher Beaver

Business

Loan program for women, minority entrepreneurs expected to launch in spring

Entertainment

Symphony offers virtual performance of ‘Resounding Romance’ Feb. 12-14

Local

Pops at the Post scheduled for Sept. 11

Education

Kannapolis City Schools searching for an architect to explore A.L. Brown expansion

Lifestyle

Dan Mikkelson proves he’s tough as nails, almost lands gig as contestant on reality show

Entertainment

‘American Pickers’ coming back to North Carolina

Business

Circle of ceramics: former Pottery 101 employee now selling her own work in gallery

Education

Rowan-Salisbury Schools to declare surplus schools, review redistricting

Business

Biz Roundup: Application process now open for grant program to help small downtown businesses

Coronavirus

County records 19 COVID-19 deaths this week

Health

NC panel backs governor’s ‘guiding principles’ on health improvements

Education

N.C. colleges report first wave of COVID-19 cases as semester begins

Nation/World

Former Make-A-Wish Iowa CEO charged with embezzling funds

News

Reactions from the sports world to the death of Hank Aaron

Sports

Panthers new GM Fitterer plans to ‘be in on every deal’

Coronavirus

Congregate facilities record COVID-19 deaths, county sees equal number of new cases, recoveries

Crime

Teen found dead on Grove Street, another dies from gunshot wound while being airlifted

Nation/World

Hank Aaron, baseball’s one-time home run king, dies at 86

Crime

Blotter: Shots fired into West Lafayette Street home

Business

CEO of Economic Partnership details state’s economic development future with Rowan Chamber