Duke freshmen Williamson, Barrett top AP All-America team
The season did not end as Zion Williamson and RJ Barrett intended. The fabulous freshmen came to Duke to win a national championship and their bid came up short with a loss to Michigan State in the Elite Eight.
Williamson and Barrett still managed to make a bit of history.
The Duke duo was named to The Associated Press All-America team on Tuesday, becoming the second freshman teammates to make the first team in the same season. They were joined by Tennessee’s Grant Williams, Michigan State’s Cassius Winston and Ja Morant of Murray State.
Kentucky’s DeMarcus Cousins and John Wall were the only other freshman teammates to take first-team AP honors in 2010.
The 6-foot-7, 285-pound Williamson electrified college basketball with an array of thunderous dunks and soaring blocks, occasionally having to tilt his head to avoid hitting it on the backboard. He was selected unanimously by 64 voters as a first-team All-American. He averaged 22.1 points, 8.9 rebounds, 2.2 blocked shots and 1.8 steals per game while leaving everyone wondering what he would do next.
“He’s got the most incredible first step,” Michigan State coach Tom Izzo said. “That’s why he’s getting all those steals. He can take one dribble and cover more space than most human beings that I know can do. And so then he has the strength to finish at the end. So he’s not Superman, but he’s damn close.”
Barrett arrived at Duke as the higher-rated recruit and while everyone fawned over his high-flying teammate, the athletic 6-7 guard quietly had a superb season in Durham. Barrett led the Blue Devils with 22.9 points, grabbed 7.5 rebounds and dished 4.1 assists per game on a team that came a game short of the Final Four.
Williams was the SEC player of the year a season ago and may have been even better while winning the award this year.
The 6-7 junior averaged 19 points per game while shooting 57% and had 7.6 rebounds, 3.1 assists and lead the Vols to the Sweet 16 for the first time in five years.
Morant was the most exciting player in college basketball not named Zion, lighting up highlight reels with emphatic dunks and no-look passes.
The 6-3 point guard may have turned himself into an NBA lottery pick his sophomore season, leading the nation with 10 assists per game and averaging 24.6 points to become Murray State’s first first-team All-American.
“He’s one of the most exceptional players that I’ve had a chance to watch play,” Florida State coach Leonard Hamilton said. “He’s kind of a throwback to guys who have the ability to score points. But also has the passion and the excitement about creating opportunities for his teammates.”
Winston is not the most athletic player, even on his own team. He is heady, ultra tough and a big reason the Spartans are in the Final Four.
He averaged 18.9 points, 7.6 assists and was Michigan State’s go-to guy when a big shot was needed.
“I didn’t really picture myself in that position at the beginning of this year,” Winston said Tuesday . “It’s a year full of blessings, for sure.”