Zion Williamson found out this summer his popularity isn’t contained to the United States.
On a trip to Europe with Adidas, people knew the Spartanburg Day standout and No. 2 prospect in the country.
“Sometimes it is crazy. Even in a different country, they know who I am,” Williamson said Thursday after a game at the Adidas Gauntlet in Spartanburg. “But I want to be a professional basketball player and they are going to know who you are, so I just embrace it.”
Williamson exploded on the landscape last year with his thunderous dunks and blocks that made ESPN SportCenter’s Top 10 on several occasions. Three of his highlight videos have more than 1 million views each.
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Williamson’s popularity doesn’t show any signs of slowing down. He writes a regular blog for USA Today in which he details what is going on in his life, such as rating Jay Z’s new album or how much Italian food he ate in Europe.
Last month, Williamson became the eighth high school player and first since Andrew Wiggins in 2013 to grace the cover of Slam Magazine.
“It is crazy; I can’t thank Slam enough for choosing me from all the players in the country,” Williamson said.
The extra attention hasn’t affected his performance on the court. He finished his high school season with a 51-point performance in the SCISA state championship win against Myrtle Beach Christian Academy.
Williamson said his No. 1 goal this year is to lead Spartanburg Day to a third state title.
The 6-foot-8 senior has been hampered by a knee injury, and had it wrapped during games this week. The Gauntlet is only his second of the summer with SC Supreme, an AAU team coached by his stepfather Lee Anderson.
Williamson showed a little rust at times, but also showed the athleticism that has wowed crowds over the past year. He had a two-handed block on a fast break, in which he hit his head on the backboard, to deny GameElite guard and Oak Hill junior Josh Nickelberry.
Williamson has a pair of 30-point games and three double-doubles in the first four contests this week.
“I’m still not there. I’m trying to get the rust off,” Williamson said. “But when my coach tells me to take the game over, I’m going to take the game over.”
Rivals national analyst Eric Bossi said Williamson could use some rest at some point because his physical style of play takes a toll. As long as he is out there, he knows Williamson gives it all he has.
“Whether fully healthy or not, he is going to bring it,” Bossi said. “He has got that football mentality. He always is going to put on a show and feeds off of the crowds.”
The biggest question for Williamson headed into his final year of high school is his college decision.
On Thursday, Williamson said he might want to make his college choice before the season starts. A day later, he told reporters he wouldn’t mind playing with point guard Immanuel Quickley, a top-10 prospect likely headed for Kentucky, which is in the mix along with Duke, North Carolina, Arizona, Kansas and UCLA, along with in-state schools.
Bossi said those big schools don’t usually miss on guys like Williamson, but added not to count out South Carolina or Clemson. Gamecock fans haven’t been shy in their desire to have him play with USC, which is coming off its first Final Four trip. When USC returned from winning East Regional in New York, fans chanted, “We want Zion! We want Zion!”
If Williamson commits to USC, it might have the same impact as when Marcus Lattimore or Jadeveon Clowney committed to South Carolina for football.
“With Zion, you got a unique thing that he has embedded himself to the culture of the state,” Bossi said. “If he were to stay home, that would never be forgotten. Whatever would happen to him going down the road, people always would remember that. He would be like a hero in the state.
“Whether he would become an NBA all-star or not, people would always love him for that. I don’t think it is a done deal that he leaves. Been some talk here lately that Clemson or South Carolina have a legitimate chance. Him leaving the state isn’t a foregone conclusion.”