By LARRY VAUGHT
There was a time many Kentucky basketball fans — and maybe even coach John Calipari — thought Zion Williamson would be playing for UK against Duke Nov. 6 in Indianapolis.
Instead, Williamson surprised many by picking Duke over UK and will be starting for the Blue Devils against UK.
Duke freshman point guard Tre Jones helped pulled off the recruiting bonanza for Duke. He was already committed to UK when Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski let him know Williamson was a player he wanted.
“The coaches told me who they wanted. I was able to talk to the guys and build a bond off the court first. Then we realized we could play together and be pretty good. We all bought into it,” Jones said when talking about the freshmen group of Williamson, Cam Reddish, R.J. Barrett and him.
“All four of us were in a group chat and we talked about every single day. Getting recruited by coach K, it’s hard to say no to him. He has been able to coach some of the best players ever to play and make them play together. We all think he has a plan for us as well and we can’t wait to get started.”
Count Jones as one who is happy Kentucky and Duke are playing to start the season.
“Those are two of the colleges that you hear about every year. I am obviously part of it now. I just think it is cool that those two college are always in the forefront with the talk and now the year starts with us playing,” Jones said.
“I think it will be a lot of fun. There will be a lot of familiar faces in that game. We know each other pretty well. Everybody will be talking about that rivalry game because we are always talked about as the top teams and recruits. It will be a fun game early just to get things going.”
That was obvious in March at the McDonald’s All-American Game when the UK and Duke signees were doing some friendly trash talking about a game in November.
Not surprisingly, the biggest trash talker was UK freshman Keldon Johnson.
“They (Duke signees) are all pretty cool but I just want to let them know we are coming for them at Kentucky,” Johnson said then. “Everybody thinks Duke is just going to blow us out and things like that but we are coming after them. I don’t let them run over top of me.
“I am a nice person. It’s nothing personal against them. It’s more off the court talking. I don’t really like to get into it on the court unless somebody is really coming after me and talking to me. Off the court, we joke and trash talk. But I had to let them know they were not going to beat Kentucky.”
Jones didn’t take it personal. He knew that was just Johnson being Johnson.
“He is a fun guy to be around. He’s really funny and an extreme competitor but he is definitely a trash talker. That’s part of his game,” Jones said. “He is a funny trash talker, too. He tries to get under your skin. He will joke around with you a lot. Off the court he is a jokester too. It doesn’t surprise me that he says UK will win. That’s who Keldon is. He’s a talker but you have got to feel like you team will win. I get that.”
Duke teammates obviously believe that Williamson can help deliver a lot of wins for them.
“His footwork, his body control, and his skillset is really incredible,” said Javin Delaurier, “
“He’s so much more than just an incredible athlete. One thing that sticks out to me is his passing ability. He can really pass the ball,” Jack White said. “He’s a really smart player. He always seems to make the right play. He makes his teammates better. He’s a great guy off the floor to be around, great locker room guy.”
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