A celebration that has been ongoing for more than a month in the city of New Orleans finally reached its culmination Thursday night. It’s official – Zion Williamson is a member of the Pelicans, after he was drafted No. 1 overall at Barclays Center.
Ever since the moment New Orleans beat the odds May 14 by winning the NBA draft lottery – despite only a 6 percent chance of doing so – overjoyed Pelicans fans have expressed their excitement for the imminent addition of Williamson. The 18-year-old forward starred at Duke and drew immense interest and TV audiences for his college games.
During interviews leading up to Thursday’s draft, Williamson expressed similar enthusiasm about the prospect of beginning his NBA career. Asked Wednesday on a scale of 1 to 10 how excited he is for draft night and to hear his name called by Adam Silver, Williamson responded with a smile, “One-hundred. I mean, we dream about this day for so long, and don’t know if (being drafted by the NBA is) going to come true… The hard work, the sacrifices gave us the opportunity to even be here (as a potential draftee), let alone be picked No. 1.”
Williamson added he was looking forward to going to the Crescent City and to play for Alvin Gentry, who will be entering his fifth season as Pelicans head coach.
“The assistant coaches at Duke and Coach K told me about him,” Williamson explained. “They said he’s a great coach. Coach Gentry said he lets his players play. If I go there, I think I’m going to like it.”
On multiple occasions leading up to draft night, Williamson described himself as “a simple guy” who planned to celebrate being picked by an NBA team in low-key fashion, probably by going to dinner late Thursday with family. On Friday, he’s expected to travel to New Orleans to participate in an introductory press conference. Prior to knowing that he was going to the Pelicans – at least officially – Williamson pointed out that he was ready to get started.
“I’m excited to be there,” he said of the possibility of landing in New Orleans.
(Press Release Provided by the New Orleans Pelicans)
The Pelicans also posted video of the team’s “war room” last night when owner Gayle Benson, VP of Basketball Operations David Griffin, and head coach Alvin Gentry officially called in the team’s pick.
The video also shows the phone call between Gentry and Griffin and Williamson welcoming him to the franchise.