COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - The Palmetto State is welcoming back one of the state’s biggest names in high school basketball, as Duke freshman Zion Williamson returns home.
Williamson played high school basketball at Spartanburg Day School, where he helped the Griffins win three consecutive state championships. His high school coach, Lee Sartor, said he first saw Williamson play basketball when he was in fifth grade.
“I’ve been blessed to have coached some very nice basketball players, but I’ve never coached a kid like Zion,” Sartor said.
Sartor said he knew Williamson was special, which is why he spoke to his parents about attending Spartanburg Day School when he was about to start high school.
“My goal as his high school coach was to help him be the best player he could, but God blessed him with a lot of ability and he had a great work ethic, and because of that I think he worked himself into being a very, very special basketball player,” Sartor said.
Sartor remembers Williamson being the first player in the gym and the last one to leave, a perfectionist that wanted to ace every drill before learning the next.
“He really is a student of the game and has an incredible mind for basketball,” he said. “He’s humble and grounded and a hard worker.”
When Williamson announced he would attend Duke University last spring, Sartor said he did so for one reason.
“He went to Duke to win it all and that journey begins Friday,” he said.
Several Midlands basketball teams encountered Williamson and the Griffins over the last several years, including Hammond, Ben Lippen and Gray Collegiate Academy. Gray’s boys basketball coach Dion Bethea said he remembers the 2017 matchup between the two teams during the Chick-fil-A Classic.
“We had a top recruit in Jakel Felton and between him and Zion, everybody wanted to see that matchup,” Bethea said. “They stopped letting people in the gym, they had a long line that went out to the parking lot. The atmosphere was absolutely electric.”
Bethea said the game plan was to try to contain Williamson, as the team know it would be difficult to prevent him from scoring. What started out as a close game, quickly changed.
“He just single-handedly took control,” Bethea said. “He’s just a competitor, a mean guy on the court. He intimidated us a little bit, well, a lot.”
In 2018, Lee Sartor left Spartanburg Day School for a head coach position at Erskine College. Even so, he predicts Zion will soon join the ranks of the NBA’s elite.
“A lot of people are going to disagree with me, but I think he might be the best player in the world someday,” he said.
Williamson and the Blue Devils will take on North Dakota State Friday night at Colonial Life Arena.