LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- Mike Krzyzewski dug into his Hall of Fame collection of stories and said something about Zion Williamson that he never said about Christian Laettner, Grant Hill, Shane Battier, Nolan Smith, Jahlil Okafor or any former Duke player who actually won an NCAA title for him.
"He's a gift from God, really, for a coach," Coach K told Pete Thamel of Yahoo Sports.
Not for this story, coach.
For this story, on the day of the 2019 NBA Draft, Zion feeds into a question that has bounced around the gym since March:
Were Coach K, Zion and the rest of Duke's merry band of lottery picks the biggest underachievers in the history of the NCAA Tournament?
Just asking for a friend.
Or for people who flinched when that was written about the 2015 Kentucky team that won 38 consecutive games but not the two that mattered.
Or the guy from the Wall Street Journal who waited until Victor Oladipo and Cody Zeller were drafted second and fourth in the 2013 NBA Draft and labeled Indiana the biggest underachiever in NCAA Tournament history.
Or the Dean Smith Fan Club that does not want you to forget that in 1984 North Carolina had Michael Jordan, Sam Perkins, Kenny Smith, Brad Daugherty and Joe Wolf (all eventual first-round NBA picks) and failed to advance to the Elite Eight.
But for this column the pick is Duke, especially after Coach K laid it on ultra thick to appeal to the Next Great Recruit by getting super-syrupy about Zion.
Zion is sensational. ESPN has reminded us of that every 30 seconds. But as good as he was, he did not get Duke to the Final Four. He almost went home the first weekend.
And as much as we all go gaga about the NBA Draft, let's remember two things:
1.) Toronto just won the NBA title without a single lottery pick on its roster.
2.) Of the 60 guys taken in the 2018 NBA Draft, one averaged double figures in the 2019 playoffs.
Take your 500 bonus points if you knew that guy was former Kentucky guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, who averaged 13.7 in the opening round for the Clippers.
For the record, in 2015 Kentucky had four lottery picks (Karl-Anthony Towns, No. 1; Willie Cauley-Stein, No. 6; Trey Lyles, No. 12 and Devin Booker, No. 13) as well as two second-rounders -- and exited in the Final Four against Frank Kaminsky, Sam Dekker and Wisconsin.
In 2013, Indiana had Oladipo, Zeller, Yogi Ferrell and other guys who have learned to play overseas -- and lost ugly to Syracuse in the Sweet Sixteen, stirring the venom from the Wall Street Journal.
In 1984, the Tar Heels had Jordan and Perkins (third and fourth picks that season); Daugherty (first overall pick in 1986) and Smith and Wolf (picks 6 and 13 in 1987).
For this column, the winner (or loser) is Duke.
The consensus is the Blue Devils will have three of the top eight picks Thursday night as the draft unfolds at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, N.Y.
If you believe some of the trade rumors, Duke might have three of the top five picks, including selections one and two.
If Williamson was a gift from God to Coach K, RJ Barrett and Cameron Reddish were not chump change.
Barrett can score with anybody whose name will be called by NBA commissioner Adam Silver. Reddish is considered the best shooter from distance of the trio, which is code for predicting he will have the best career considering the importance of three-point shooting in today's NBA.
Even if you disagree with the forecasts that have moved Reddish up to the No. 5 selection, you'd better concede that Reddish will be taken in the first eight picks.
Newsflash: Central Florida was a missed layup from defeating Duke in the Round of 32 without any first-round picks.
Virginia Tech lost to the Blue Devils by two -- and their only first-rounder (Nickeil Alexander-Walker) is likely to fall outside the lottery.
Michigan State sent the Blue Devils back to Durham in the Elite Eight and the Spartans won't have anybody selected Thursday night.
It happens. Happened to John Calipari. Happened to Tom Crean. Happened to Dean Smith.
And it happened to Coach K -- even with a 6-foot-7, 285-pound gift from God standing next to him.
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