SALT LAKE CITY — The talk linking New Orleans and Zion Williamson has been running rampant since Tuesday night’s NBA draft lottery, when the Pelicans were awarded the No. 1 pick in next month’s draft.
The talented big man who left Duke after one season is the overwhelming favorite to be selected with the draft’s top pick, and it inspired New Orleans Saints coach Sean Payton to imagine what it would be like to get the 6-foot-7, 285-pound Williamson to help out on the football field if he indeed lands with the Pelicans.
Payton isn’t the only one who’s thought about how Williamson would fit on the gridiron. Peyton’s tweet caused NOLA.com to reference an ESPN story from last November in which first-year BYU offensive line coach Eric Mateos, then the offensive line coach at Texas State, recalled offering Williamson a football scholarship.
Consider this a double reference.
During 2016 when Williamson’s athleticism was starting to garner attention, Mateos, then an offensive line grad assistant and tight ends coach at LSU, saw the potential for the basketball star to make a big impact on the football field.
He reached out to offer Williamson a scholarship to play at the SEC school, ESPN’s Jeff Borzello reported, though Mateos never heard back from Williamson.
"Honestly, I just thought it would be really fun and would be good exposure for LSU if we offered him for football. Unfortunately, he didn't seem to be too (interested)," Mateos told ESPN. "(Then LSU interim coach Ed Orgeron) said go recruit the best athletes in the country, and that's what I tried to do."
Back to the Zags for help?
One of the most iconic names in Utah Jazz history, Hall of Fame guard John Stockton, came to Utah courtesy of Gonzaga.
Could the Jazz turn to another Zags star in this year’s NBA draft?
Forbes contributor Andy Bailey broke down three potential prospects Utah could select with the 23rd overall pick in the first round of next month’s draft.
Among them is Gonzaga forward Rui Hachimura, and Bailey analyzed how he'd fit into the Jazz’s interior game.
"What really makes Hachimura intriguing is his combination of size and athleticism. At (6-foot-8) and 230 pounds, with a wingspan over (7 feet), he certainly has the size to play the 4 in the NBA. He also has some wing skills, though, which makes him more of a modern forward," Bailey wrote.
"Hachimura has a chance to be that kind of combo forward, or even a position-less player. He certainly has some areas to improve to reach that ceiling, but Utah would be the kind of soft landing he needs to do that."2 comments on this story
The others Bailey analyzed include Tennessee forward Grant Williams — "despite his thicker frame, he possess enough mobility to play small-ball 4, and perhaps even some playmaking 5" — and North Carolina’s Nassir Little — "Little's size, athleticism and skillset suggested he could be an NBA combo forward before he ever set foot on campus at UNC."
And finally ...
Resident Twitter funnyman Boney Fuller offered a humorous take on new BYU basketball coach Mark Pope and the high number of players he is bringing to Provo from his old school, Utah Valley.