One of the worst things that can happen to a highly-touted college prospect is to be derailed by injuries. It happened to a lot of high-ranking NBA draft picks, and recently, we’ve seen it again with New Orleans Pelicans’ No. 1 overall Zion Williamson.
A rough patch
In his first 24 games in the NBA, Williamson logged 22.5 points and 6.3 rebounds per outing. He picked up where he left off the following season and showed everybody that he was the best player in the 2019 draft class by registering 27 points and 7.2 boards per game. In the process, he earned his well-deserved first All-Star appearance.
Unfortunately, Williamson dealt with two major challenges in his young career. He suffered a foot injury that kept him out for the entire 2021-22 season. What’s even worse? The fans heavily criticized his evident weight gain while in rehab.
As a youngster making his bones in the grown man’s league, Williamson admitted he succumbed to impairment caused by public scrutiny.
“I was in dark places at times,” Williamson told Sports Illustrated ahead of the 2022-23 season. “Because I couldn’t play basketball. I could only do limited rehab things. And then just seeing how the world reacted? It took a lot. It did a lot on my spirit.”
Despite the agony, Williamson chose to be strong. With the help of his family and the entire Pelicans organization, “Zanos” kept his head up and focused on getting better. Not only did Williamson recover from injury, but he also improved his game physically and mentally.
“I’ve grown,” Williamson declared. “I learned a lot about myself, learned more about the game.”
To everyone’s surprise, Williamson kept his word and transformed from a plus-size stretch three to a bulky yet buff scorer. The improvement did not end in his physique as Williamson started the new season strong, averaging 22.9 points and 6.9 rebounds in his first eight games. And apparently, there’s more to come.
“They’re going to see that I’ve matured off the court and on the court. And they’re also gonna see that my game has evolved. I’m gonna show the world things that I’ve had in my arsenal that I didn’t show before.”
Undeniably, Williamson is in the zone right now, and if he could keep this up, it wouldn’t be a shock if we hear his name in the MVP conversation.