Take 5: WWZD: What Will Zion Do


Robert Willett | TNS

Duke’s Zion Williamson (1) falls to the court under North Carolina’s Luke Maye (32), injuring himself and damaging his shoe during the first half of the game on Wednesday, Feb. 20 at Cameron Indoor Stadium in Durham, N.C.

By Pitt News Staff

With March Madness right around the corner and the NBA Draft not far ahead, there has been  a lot of talk about which college players have what it takes to get to the next level. Ja Morant isn’t playing in the best conference, but he is still thought to be a top draft pick — what really matters if he has what it takes to make it big. More importantly, there is Zion Williamson. He is the best player in college basketball, but ever since he got injured, no one is sure if he will be back this season. And of course, there is Bryce Harper who is still unemployed and Kyler Murray who says he is playing football, but who may still have some interest in baseball. No one knows for sure what any of these athletes’ futures hold, but people can speculate and guess. Morant will make it, Zion should come back, the Phillies should walk away from Bryce and Murray needs to throw.

Ja-dropping talent

Ja Morant, Murray State’s sophomore guard, is scoring 24.4 points per game, dishing out 10.3 assists per game and grabbing 5.3 rebounds per game. These are impressive numbers to put up, and his abilities have been duly noted as he is projected as a top-three selection in this year’s NBA Draft.

There is a reason Morant is so attractive to NBA owners and general managers. There is a reason he is touted so highly for the numbers he puts up, even though he plays in the Ohio Valley Conference, which some consider a weak conference.

His athleticism and intangible abilities on the court are what really makes Morant stand out to the NBA franchises. The old saying goes, “You can’t teach athleticism.” This phrase epitomizes Morant’s game and speed. His lateral quickness and vertical jump are what he does best. Morant has already thrown down some incredible dunks and that is just scratching the surface with what he will do in the future.

Morant’s other strength is that he is fundamentally sound. He knows how to play the game better and smarter than his opponents. That is likely the reason why the Racers are currently sitting with a 23-4 record for the season. Morant makes players around him better and that is what the NBA is looking for in a player.

-Tyler Moran, Staff Writer

Zion’s dilemma

Duke first-year Zion Williamson evolved from a high school phenom to the face of college basketball this season. In that time, Williamson has become a human highlight reel of dunks, blocks and pure athleticism. It’s the consensus that he will be the No. 1 pick in this year’s draft.

But against rival UNC on Feb. 20, Williamson planted his right foot so hard he blew through his shoe 33 seconds into the contest, causing him to leave the game. He was later diagnosed with a grade 1 right knee sprain.

After the injury, analysts and fans started discussing whether Williamson, if he recovers from his injury, should return to playing with Duke or sit out and ensure he doesn’t get injured again.

The answer? He should do whatever he wants.

The majority seems to disagree. A Twitter poll posted by sports business reporter Darren Rovell asked if Williamson should be advised to sit out and focus on preparing for the draft, and 63 percent of more than 27,469 voters answered yes.

Certainly, that would be the financially sound decision to make. And if Williamson has his gaze cast on the future zeros in his bank account, then sitting out is the move. But that should be up to him to decide.

No one should advise him to sit out. He knows the monetary potential of his NBA career and doesn’t need to be reminded. If he heals and his heart tells him to return to help his team win a championship, then that’s what he should do. If Williamson is the type of player that plays for the love of the game, then he deserves to cut down nets with his team.

-Nick Carlisano, Staff Writer

Waiting on Zion

After processing the shock of Duke first-year phenom Zion Williamson’s injury, many sports pundits speculated as to whether or not it made sense for Williamson to sit out the rest of the year in order to stay healthy for the NBA Draft. Williamson, the overwhelming favorite to be the No. 1 pick in the 2019 NBA Draft, has but two months left to go in his first and last collegiate basketball season.

Should he decide to sit out the remainder of the season, he will undoubtedly still be selected with the No. 1 pick of the draft and secure himself and his family financial security. However, not playing would deprive him of the enjoyment of playing the sport he loves and building his personal brand by continuing to add to his collection of highlight-reel plays.

Instead of rushing back to compete in the regular season for Duke, Williamson should rest up and sit out until the NCAA Tournament begins. With this compromise, he could minimize his risk of re-injuring himself while still taking part in one of the most iconic events in all of sports. This concession would ensure that Williamson nets a lucrative NBA contract and shoe deal while fans can marvel at watching one of the most dynamic college basketball players of the last decade.

-Peter Bosco, for The Pitt News

Harping on Bryce

As someone who grew up as a Philadelphia sports fan, I mostly stuck to watching and reading about the 76ers and the Eagles. They were the most popular and the most exciting and they both had something going on — the Eagles with former head coach Chip Kelly and the Sixers with their rebuild. I even liked watching the Flyers a little bit because hockey is a fast and exciting sport and Claude Giroux was making a name for himself. But I never watched baseball.

My dad was always a baseball fan, though, and he’s been telling me all about the Bryce Harper situation, and how he’s on the verge of becoming the highest paid player in all of sports. He told me about how the Phillies want to lock him up for the next 10 years, but he won’t sign unless he has an opt-out at the three-year mark. As someone who is deeply invested in the success of Philadelphia sports teams, I think the Phillies would be smart to walk away.

The fact that Harper and his agent are insisting on an opt-out shows that he is not really sure about Philadelphia. The fans in Philly want someone who’s totally dedicated to success and loves the city, guys like Joel Embiid and Malcolm Jenkins. If you’re not totally invested in Philadelphia, you won’t last long here –– just look at Markelle Fultz.

It doesn’t seem right that Harper has an opt-out but the Phillies don’t. Say Harper gets knocked in the head with a baseball one day and goes into a coma for 10 years –– the Phillies are still stuck paying him. That’s obviously an extreme example, but Philly was in a similar situation with Ryan Howard when he went past his prime and couldn’t hit a curveball to save his life.

Harper is good. I would probably go so far as to say he’s very good. But to say that he should have all the leverage in any situation is untrue, especially when Mike Trout, known to be an enormous Philly guy, will be a free agent in 2020.

-Jack Clay, Staff Writer

Will Kyler throw?

With the NFL combine starting this weekend, there is a lot of controversy surrounding former Oklahoma Sooner quarterback Kyler Murray, who was drafted ninth overall by the Oakland Athletics — yes, the Athletics — in the 2018 Major League Baseball draft.

Although he indicated that he was leaning toward fully committing to playing in the NFL, Murray has declined to provide full clarity on the situation at this point. Murray has only added fuel to this fire by being noncommittal on his status for the throwing drills at the combine.

A lot of quarterbacks become weary of throwing at the NFL combine because they are throwing to receivers they have never worked with before, for the most part. Perhaps this is Murray’s concern as his top receiver from Oklahoma, Marquise Brown, cannot participate in the combine due to a recent foot surgery.

This is an extreme measure for Murray to take. There is already so much controversy around Murray’s name and it does not make much sense to not throw in the combine. With all questions about his future and his height, one would think Murray would be excited to go to the combine and show off the arm that won him the 2018 Heisman Trophy.

NFL general managers understand there may be a lack of chemistry. If Murray were to go out and throw at the combine and have a subpar performance, NFL teams would not read into it as much as Murray may believe.

There is a reason that college football programs hold pro days for former players looking to get drafted into the NFL. Murray could easily wipe away negativity he gets from a bad showing at the combine by having a solid pro day with all of his Oklahoma receivers. Not to mention, if Murray decides to throw at the combine and performs well, this will give him a huge advantage.

-Adin Link