Zion Williamson Returns to the Court for Duke

CHARLOTTE — For the first time since his left sneaker split open 30 seconds after tipoff of a game last month, the Duke superstar Zion Williamson took the court on Thursday night, for a quarterfinal against Syracuse in the Atlantic Coast Conference Tournament.

As Duke took the court to warm up, Williamson assumed a place in the team’s layup lines. On his third trip through, he put down a slam with his dominant left hand and showed no signs of the knee injury sustained when the shoe exploded.

An “oooh” came from the crowd.

He was the first member of Duke’s starting five to be introduced pregame: “A 6-foot-7 freshman from Spartanburg, South Carolina: Zion Williamson!”

He won the opening tip-off for the Blue Devils, and scored their first points on an inside layup.

Barely two minutes had gone by when he brought Duke fans in attendance to their feet, intercepting a Syracuse pass and taking it all the way to the other end for a thunderous dunk.

With Williamson at full strength or close to it, Duke should be a favorite to win the national championship, which would be its first since 2015 and the sixth of Coach Mike Krzyzewski’s career.

Duke is also nearly a lock to be no lower than a No. 2 seed in the national tournament bracket, though by the time the field is announced on Sunday, the selection committee might have extrapolated Duke’s power with a healthy Williamson forward and slotted it as a top seed.

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