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Duke’s Zion Williamson is named AP men’s college basketball player of the year

Duke’s Zion Williamson is named AP men’s college basketball player of the year
Freshman Zion Williamson and top-seeded Duke reached the Elite Eight of the NCAA tournament, where they lost to Michigan State. (Patrick Smith / Getty Images)

Just about everything Zion Williamson did at Duke created a highlight or headline in a spectacle of a season.

The soaring dunks.

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The open-court moves more nimble than his 6-foot-7, 285-pound frame should allow.

Even the freak occurrence of one of his feet tearing through its shoe in a fall to the court.

Handling all that attention became maybe the biggest lesson for the freshman, who quickly became the face of college basketball and the game's biggest star in years — then fittingly finished as the Associated Press men's player of the year.

“I was comfortable with it because you don't really have a choice,” Williamson said in an interview with the AP earlier this week. “I think if you try to force it out, then it's going to bother you. My mom just told me to look at it as a lot of kids would wish to be in my position, so if it does bother me, I just think about it like that.”

Williamson claimed 59 of 64 votes from AP basketball poll voters before the NCAA tournament in results released Friday. Freshman teammate RJ Barrett earned two votes as a fellow AP first-team All-American, while Virginia's De'Andre Hunter, Michigan State's Cassius Winston and Murray State's Ja Morant each earned one vote.

Williamson had hoped to be in Minneapolis preparing for Saturday's national semifinals like Hunter and Winston. But the Blue Devils fell to Winston's Spartans in the Elite Eight as the top overall seed.

In a likely one-year college stop for a possible top overall NBA draft pick, the 18-year-old Williamson averaged 22.6 points and 8.9 rebounds while ranking second nationally by shooting 68%. He also ranked among the Atlantic Coast Conference leaders in steals (2.12) and blocks (1.79).

“It's been remarkable what he's done,” said North Carolina coach Roy Williams, who recruited Williamson. “There hasn't been many guys like that to come down the road. So the attention he's gotten, I think he'd deserved. He's driven a different ship.”

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Voting breakdown

Zion Williamson, Duke — 59

R.J. Barrett, Duke — 2

De'Andre Hunter, Virginia — 1

Ja Morant, Murray State — 1

Cassius Winston, Michigan State — 1

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