Zion Williamson relieved almost two months of built-up aggression in a way he is a accustomed to – by dunking the ball.
The Spartanburg Day phenom took a pass from Clay Killoren, cut through the paint, cocked his right arm back, sent through a ferocious dunk and let out a big scream.
The dunk was part of Williamson’s big night as he returned to action for the first time since late November. The five-star prospect finished with 31 points as Spartanburg Day defeated Asheville Christian, 71-62, on Thursday night.
“It is good to get back to the game I love, Williamson said. “I really love the game, and when you can’t participate in the game you love, it hurts on the inside.”
Williamson sustained a foot bruise Nov. 21 against Hammond, but has worked hard getting back to action. He said he is about 80 to 85 percent, but he played with a lot of adrenaline Thursday night.
Williamson gave himself a grade of a C for his performance, adding he could have done better boxing out, playing better defense and creating more for his teammates. He admitted he was a little worried thinking about the injury, but for the most part it looked like the same Williamson who has dazzled fans and his more than one million Instagram followers.
Most of the near capacity crowd rose to their feet late in the game as Williamson broke away for a fastbreak. But instead of adding to his highlight reel of dunks, he threw it up off the backboard to teammate Chandler Lindsay.
It was one of a handful of alley-oops to his teammates on the night.
“My coach told me to go finish, but if you know me, you know I love my teammates, want them to get hype and get happy,” Williamson said. “It was fun being out there with them. I really missed that.”
Williamson played around 28 of the 32 minutes in the game, including the whole fourth quarter. Spartanburg Day coach Lee Sartor tried to limit Williamson’s minutes, relying on his instinct and on his star telling him when he needed a break.
“Zion is a gamer, and he is going to play hard any time he is out there.” Sartor said. “Zion is Zion. He did some amazing stuff out there, and I think the best is yet to come.”
With one game back under his belt, Williamson and his teammates were boarding a plane at 4:30 a.m. Friday to play in the Hoophall Classic in Springfield, Mass. The Griffins will play Chino Hills (Calif.) on Saturday at 8 p.m. in a game on ESPN.
A week later, Williamson will announce his college choice in a ceremony at his school Jan. 20.
“We weren’t always playing on TV, and people view us as a small, private 2A school,” Williamson said. “So we are going to go out there and play with a chip on our shoulder.”