LOS ANGELES (AFP) – Duke University star Zion Williamson was honoured with the Naismith Trophy Player of the Year award on Sunday after a dazzling freshman season in college basketball that is likely to make him the top pick in the NBA draft.
The 18-year-old Blue Devils phenom is only the third freshman to win the prestigious award, which has been handed out to the best player in men’s college basketball every year since 1969.
“It is truly an honor to receive this and join such an elite list of former Blue Devils to have also won the award,” Williamson said in a statement.
“There were so many great players who could have won this award this year. I can’t thank my teammates, coaches and family enough for helping me. This is a team award, and it’s an honor for me to accept this on behalf of my brothers.”
The only other players to win the Naismith in their first season of college basketball were Golden State Warriors star Kevin Durant and New Orleans Pelicans ace Anthony Davis.
Previous winners of the trophy include Michael Jordan, Tim Duncan, Patrick Ewing, Larry Bird, Bill Walton and Lew Alcindor.
Williamson averaged 22.6 points and 8.9 rebounds per game this season. Duke were knocked out of March Madness in the Elite Eight round of competition.
However the teenager’s performances mean he is almost certain to be chosen as the top pick in this year’s NBA Draft.