There are no two freshmen receiving more attention this year than Duke’s dynamic Zion Williamson and RJ Barrett.
The two sat down for an interview with NCAA.com's Andy Katz ahead of their first game this season against rival North Carolina (watch above). Despite Williamson’s popularity as a high-flying dunker, Barrett told Katz that he values Zion’s defensive traits more.
“I like him on the defensive end more, because if we miss an assignment or something, he goes up and gets the block and saves us all from getting yelled at by coach,” Barrett said in a video interview alongside Williamson. “He can do everything on the court. He’s not just a dunker, and that’s what I love about him.”
Williamson is averaging 1.9 blocks per game, with 48 on the year, just one behind Blue Devils center Marques Bolden.
Barrett acknowledges Williamson’s imposing force on the offensive side as well.
“You don’t want to take a charge (against Zion),” he said. “I took a charge on him once in practice and I’ll never do that again. It just hurt. I was slow getting up. When you see him coming down the lane, you just want to move out of the way.”
In the second half of their freshman years, the pair also talked about the college experience so far, and what they’re looking to get out of it.
"I always knew I would go to college,” Williamson said. “Even if they would have had the NBA road, I still would have come to college. You’re never going to get this experience again.”
But that experience has its oddities as well. Williamson mentioned the reactions when Duke lost earlier this season.
“This is college basketball,” he said. “We’re freshmen. Not making excuses for why it’s acceptable to lose, but teams like Virginia, Gonzaga, they’re great teams. Nobody has the invincible trait. By the time March comes around, hopefully we’ll be our best.”
And what’s their goal once they’re at their best? What would define a successful year?
“Winning the championship really,” Barrett said. “That’s the main goal. If you don’t do that, then you can’t really say that you succeeded.”
“Individual goals and stuff, that’s not important to us,” he said. “Everybody comes to college to try to win a national championship. I think that’s the final goal for everybody on this team.”
You can watch the full interview here: