Zion sums up season at Duke: ‘It was like a movie’
Zion Williamson’s elite talents and magnetic personality made him a national star on and off the basketball court during his one year at Duke.
The ACC voted his talents made him not only its top basketball player, but its top athlete overall.
The league announced Wednesday it selected Williamson as the Anthony J. McKevlin Award winner as its male athlete of the year, making him the first Duke basketball player to claim the award in 13 years.
The annual award is named for a former News & Observer sports editor.
North Carolina’s Ashley Hoffman, who led the Tar Heels to perfect field hockey season that culminated with an NCAA championship, was voted the Mary Garber Award winner as the league’s top female athlete.
The 6-7, 285-pound Williamson averaged 22.6 points and 8.9 rebounds as a freshman for the Blue Devils last season. He and freshman teammate R.J. Barrett tied for the ACC lead in scoring. Williamson was named the league’s player of the year and freshman of the year while also being named a consensus all-American and national player of the year.
The ACC extended the honor to cover all its male athletes this season by selecting Williamson as its male athlete of the year.
“The McKelvin Award is the premier athletic honor in the ACC, and there was no one more deserving this season than Zion,” Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said in a statement. “It is an honor for our program, and our institution, to receive the award. Zion represented himself, his family, and our program with class, while having such a tremendous season. I couldn’t be more proud of him, and I know the best is yet to come.”
After leading Duke to a 32-6 overall record, an ACC tournament championship and a trip to the NCAA tournament’s final eight, Williamson was the No. 1 overall pick of the NBA Draft by the New Orleans Pelicans.
He was selected in a vote of selected media over nominees that included Clemson football player Christian Wilkins, N.C. State national champion swimmer Andreas Vazaios and North Carolina all-American tennis player William Blumberg.
Williamson is the first Duke athlete to win the award since football player Laken Tomlinson in 2015. Duke’s Ned Crotty won the award in 2010 after leading the Blue Devils to their first NCAA lacrosse championship.
The last Duke basketball player named ACC male athlete of the year was JJ Redick in 2006. Other players in program history to win it include Art Heyman (1963), Jeff Mullins (1964), Danny Ferry (1988, 1989), Christian Laettner (1991, 1992), Elton Brand (1999) and Shane Battier (2001).
Duke and UNC are now tied for the most basketball players winning the award at 10.
On the female side, Hoffman completed a dominant field hockey season where she was named the ACC and NCAA player of the year as well as the ACC tournament and NCAA tournament most valuable player. UNC retired her jersey.
Hoffman is the first UNC athlete to win the Garber Award since soccer player Crystal Dunn in 2013.
“Ashley is simply phenomenal – as a player and a person – and I’m thrilled to see her recognized this way,” UNC coach Karen Shelton said in a statement “She was so clearly the best player in the country in 2018, and beyond that she was such a great leader and teammate. And then she earned her degree and went on to play for the U.S. team, where she continues to make us proud. I’m just so excited for her and her family that she’s receiving the Garber Award.”