Zion Williamson Injury Update: Duke Star to Return Vs Syracuse on Thursday

Zion Williamson, Duke Blue Devils
Zion Williamson #1 of the Duke Blue Devils watches on before their game against the North Carolina Tar Heels at Dean Smith Center on March 9 in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

Zion Williamson will make his long-awaited return to action when Duke takes on Syracuse on Thursday night.

The Blue Devils face the Orange in the quarterfinals of the Atlantic Coast Conference Tournament at 9 p.m. ET. This will be the first game of the tournament for third-seeded Duke. Syracuse, the ACC's number-six seed, beat the University of Pittsburgh earlier this week to earn its spot in the quarterfinals.

On Thursday afternoon, Duke announced the freshman's return via its Twitter account, although it did not disclose any further details on his fitness.


(Heโ€™s back) pic.twitter.com/VleciNZ6V6

— Duke Menโ€™s Basketball (@DukeMBB) March 14, 2019

Williamson, a national player of the year candidate, has not played since picking up a knee injury when his foot burst through a blown-out sneaker sole just 36 seconds into the game against North Carolina on February 20.

Williamson's left shoe came apart after he planted his foot down to dribble, leaving the Duke freshman clutching his right knee in pain. The Blue Devils' medical staff confirmed the injury was classified as a Grade 1 sprain.

The North Carolina native subsequently began a rehab period with the team mindful of the need to give him enough time to recover.

Without their freshman, the Blue Devils have gone 3-3 and finished third in the ACC with a 14-4 record, behind Virginia and North Carolina, who both recorded conference records of 16 wins and two losses each.

Should the Blue Devils get past Syracuse, Williamson could cross path with the Tar Heels again, as North Carolina faces seventh-ranked Louisville in the quarterfinals.

Williamson's injury sparked a debate over whether he should sit out the remainder of the season, given he's widely considered to be the favorite to be the number one overall pick at the upcoming NBA draft this summer.

However, Williamson clearly had no intention to miss out on the ACC Tournament and, more importantly, on the NCAA Tournament which begins next week. While Williamson practiced in full during the week, it could take a while for him to be back to full fitness.

However, Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski believes his return will be a major boost for the Blue Devils' hopes of securing a first national title since 2015.

"We have a re-set button," Krzyzewski was quoted as saying by ESPN after his team lost against North Carolina last week. "If Zion's healthy, we have a chance."

Before his injury, Williamson averaged 21.6 points, 8.8 rebounds and 2.2 assists per game, shooting 68.3 percent from the field and 66.9 percent from the free throw line.

On Thursday, the 18-year-old was named among the four finalists for the Defensive Player of the Year award.