Duke’s Zion Williamson, the nation’s only player to average at least 20 points and shoot at least 65 percent from the field, has been selected by the U.S. Basketball Writers Association to receive the 2018-19 Wayman Tisdale Award as the National Freshman Player of the Year.
Williamson won the award over fellow finalists teammate RJ Barrett, Coby White of North Carolina and Antoine Davis of Detroit Mercy. The USBWA membership nominated players for the Wayman Tisdale Award, and the association’s board of directors chose the finalists for the National Player of the Year. The membership then voted on the recipient.
The 6-7 forward from Spartanburg, S.C., is the fourth Duke player to win the Wayman Tisdale Award and the first since Jahlil Okafor in 2015. Duke players have now won three of the last six Wayman Tisdale Awards. Following the Blue Devils’ dramatic 77-76 win over UCF to advance to the school’s 27th Sweet 16, Williamson is averaging 22.5 points and 8.8 rebounds per game, despite missing the last five games of the regular season. His current 68.4 shooting percentage leads the ACC and is second nationally and is threatening the ACC single-season record set by North Carolina’s Brendan Haywood (69.7 percent in 1999-2000).
The USBWA first-team All-American has electrified arenas throughout the season with rim-rattling dunks and dramatic blocks. His impact drew immediate notice from the Atlantic Coast Conference, which awarded him its Player of the Week and Freshman of the Week awards in the first week of the season, and he would earn connference Freshman of the Week honors four more times as well as an additional Player of the Week nod last month. The ACC named Williamson as its Player of the Year and he then became the first freshman to also earn ACC Tournament MVP honors, leading the Blue Devils to the title.
Williamson is also a finalist for the Oscar Robertson Trophy as the USBWA’s National Player of the Year. That announcement will be made by the award’s legendary namesake made on Friday, April 5 at a press conference at the Final Four in Minneapolis.
Williamson and Barrett – also an Oscar Robertson Trophy finalist – are looking to become the first freshman teammates to each average at least 20 points in a season. Barrett (22.8) and Williamson (22.5) are first and second in the ACC in scoring. Duke, the top seed in the East Region in its 24th consecutive NCAA Tournament, faces ACC foe Virginia Tech in the Sweet 16 on Friday in Washington, D.C.
While his dunks and acrobatic shots quickly gave him national acclaim, it has been Williamson’s defense that arguably has made the biggest defense in Duke’s fortunes.
“On defense, Williamson still seems to be best on that end of the floor,” wrote CBSSports.com’s Matt Norlander, who writes a regular column ranking the top 10 freshmen in the country. Norlander, in partnership with the USBWA, named Williamson as his National Freshman Player of the Week three times this season, including back-to-back weeks Jan. 20 and 27. “He’s one of the only players in college basketball who can truly and effectively guard all five positions.”
The USBWA has chosen a national freshman of the year award since the 1988-89 season. It was named the Wayman Tisdale Award in honor of the late three-time USBWA All-American at Oklahoma, the first freshman to receive first-team All-America honors from the USBWA. Oklahoma guard Trae Young was the 2018 winner.
The U.S. Basketball Writers Association was formed in 1956 at the urging of then-NCAA Executive Director Walter Byers. With some 900 members worldwide, it is one of the most influential organizations in college basketball. It has selected an All-America team since the 1956-57 season. For more information on the USBWA and its award programs, contact executive director Joe Mitch at 314-795-6821.