Fans waiting for Zion Williamson’s return to the court won’t have to wait much longer.
The heralded five-star product will be back in action this week, according to Spartanburg Day coach Lee Sartor.
Sartor hopes to have Williamson in the lineup Thursday when Spartanburg Day hosts Asheville Christian before heading to Massachusetts for a game against Chino Hills (Calif.) as part of the Naismith HoopHall Classic on Saturday. The game will be nationally televised on ESPN.
“He has been practicing and has been looking good in practice,” Sartor said Saturday. “I’m anxious to see how he plays and how he performs. I think the kids have been able to grow without him. It will be interesting to see how we mesh everything back together. We should be better once he gets back.”
Williamson has been out since suffering a foot injury late in the game against Hammond on Nov. 21. Spartanburg Day is 5-5 without Williamson, including Saturday’s 87-59 loss at York Prep.
Williamson, who didn’t talk to reporters following the game, is itching to get back to action.
“I miss the game. I wish I could be playing right now, but I know that God has a plan for me, and I don’t have to always understand it,” Williamson wrote last month in his blog for USA Today. “I’ve been out for a few weeks, so it’s really been a time to grow mentally.”
Despite not being able to play, Williamson remained engaged with the team and traveled with the team to Myrtle Beach for last month’s Beach Ball Classic. During Saturday’s game against York Prep, he was the biggest cheerleader and encourager on the bench for the Griffins.
“It is really amazing his attitude about everything,” Sartor said. “He gives water to the kids out there, encourages the kids out there. He gives directions and supports the teammates. And, ultimately, that is what you want in your best player.”
Even though fans knew Williamson wouldn’t be in action Saturday, they packed York Prep’s gymnasium to get a glimpse of one of the nation’s most talked about high school players. York Prep coach Frank Hamrick estimated there were 1,200-1,300 in the gym for the game, which is by far the largest crowd they’ve had there.
Williamson took pictures with fans and signed autographs before his team got back on the bus to leave the arena.
“Obviously, we would have loved to have Zion play. We had a great game against him last year,” Hamrick said. “He is fun and a blast to watch as a coach. But this was big for Rock Hill today, having this many people in the gym for a basketball game.”
With his return to the court certain this week, all attention will be on Williamson the following week as he announces his college choice Jan. 20. He has taken official visits to Duke, North Carolina, Kansas and Kentucky and several unofficial visits to in-state schools Clemson and South Carolina.
247Sports’ analysts predict there is a 70 percent chance he picks Clemson, with Kentucky second at 15 percent.
Rivals analyst Corey Evans said this week he believes Williamson will choose to stay in-state and play for Clemson, which is off to a 14-1 start and ranked No. 25 in the nation. The Tigers have been recruiting Williamson since he was an unknown freshman.
Williamson has been tight-lipped about his recruiting since the season began, but said this summer what he is looking for in a coach and school.
“If a coach is going to actually coach me and not say yes sir and let me do what I want,” Williamson said at the Adidas Gauntlet in July. “Because in the NBA, my spot can easily be replaced, so I’m looking for a coach to push me to a level I haven’t been before.”