SPARTANBURG, S.C. — Try to contain yourselves, Kentucky basketball fans, but this Zion Williamson thing is getting real.
The human highlight reel of the 2018 recruiting class, Williamson caused quite a stir Friday when he announced his interest in playing at the next level with 5-star point guard Immanuel Quickley, who the Wildcats are a heavy favorite to land. Then he shared a photo on social media of the players together with the caption “future teammates.”
Williamson doubled down on that idea in an interview with SEC Country on Saturday, saying he and Quickley aren’t trying to get a rise out of the Big Blue Nation.
“That’s the real deal. I want to play with Immanuel Quickley when I go to college,” he said. “If he goes to Kentucky, then I’m going to look into Kentucky really hard.”
Even better news for the Cats: Williamson’s mother seems to be on board with the idea.
“He and Immanuel are good friends and Immanuel’s parents and I are good friends,” said Williamson’s mother, Sharonda Sampson, who helps coach his AAU team. “If it happens, it happens, but they like playing together.”
She and her 6-foot-7, 250-ish-pound, rim-destroying son are well-versed in the benefits of a potential one-and-done playing for Kentucky coach John Calipari.
“I like it. It’s a very good program,” Sampson said. “Coach Cal is a really good coach and he really gets them ready for the NBA. Zion’s ultimate goal is to play in the NBA. The way Kentucky gets them ready and prepares them for all that’s around basketball, I really like it.”
Added Williamson, who is rated as high as No. 1 overall and no lower than No. 3 nationally by the four major recruiting services: “(Calipari) realizes that’s the ultimate dream. He wants to help us achieve that.”
Combine that with the likely commitment — perhaps soon — of Quickley to Kentucky and the possibility of a blockbuster tandem in Lexington seems real. Williamson, fresh off 33 points, 9 rebounds and a game-tying putback of his own intentional free-throw miss to force overtime at the Adidas Gauntlet Finale, outlined his connection to Quickley.
They met last year, roomed together at an event earlier this year and have seen each other throughout the spring and summer on the AAU circuit. “Every stop, we just bonded,” Williamson said. And it doesn’t hurt that Quickley is such a willing passer and adept set-up man. “Yes, that’s a big draw for me.”