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2022 NBA Draft: Duke C Mark Williams declares he’ll turn pro early after stellar sophomore season

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Duke star center Mark Williams announced Monday that he is declaring for the NBA Draft after a standout sophomore season with the Blue Devils. Williams earned ACC Defensive Player of the Year honors while helping the Blue Devils reach win the ACC regular-season title and reach the Final Four.

Williams is considered a likely first-round draft pick and potential lottery pick after averaging 11.2 points, 7.4 rebounds and 2.8 blocks per game in just 23.6 minutes per contest. The former five-star prospect blossomed in his second season with the Blue Devils and put his development on display in the NCAA Tournament.

During Duke’s five-game stay in the Big Dance, Williams averaged 13.2 points, 7.8 rebounds and 3.2 blocks per game while shooting an eye-catching 80.6% from the field. Williams’ offensive effectiveness near the rim stands out, but his defensive acumen is a huge part of what makes him a potential pro. Williams ranked fifth among all Division 1 men’s college basketball players in the 2021-22 season with 110 blocks.

“Playing in the NBA has always been a dream of mine, just as playing for Duke was when I was growing-up,” Williams said. “Duke has prepared me to take this next step.”

Mark Williams’ NBA Draft projection

For a bulky 7-footer, Williams is surprisingly active on the perimeter when placed in pick and roll situations or forced to guard smaller opponents. He’s demonstrated no 3-point shot but projects as a rim-runner on offense who can make a living finishing lobs from the dunker’s spot and cleaning up messes. His shot-blocking prowess should translate well to the NBA on defense, and he has the athleticism to develop into a quality pick-and-roll defender over time. 

Williams is ranked No. 13 on Kyle Boone’s NBA Draft Big Board and went No. 14 overall to the Cavaliers in Boone’s latest mock draft.

“Down the stretch for Duke, Williams emerged as its most dominant defender, showing why his length and shot-blocking can project to the NBA and make him a starting-caliber center,” Boone wrote. “There are very few bigs of his ilk in this draft, and his consistency as an around-the-rim scorer and shot-blocker should make him a lock to go inside the top 20.”

Impact on Duke

As first-year coach Jon Scheyer inherits the program from the legendary Mike Krzyzewski, he will likely be dealing with an overhauled roster. Williams is just one of several Blue Devils from the 2021-22 roster who could leaving to pursue professional careers. As a former Duke player and assistant whose seen substantial roster turnover before, Scheyer appears equipped to handle the transition.

Duke has the nation’s No. 1 signing class locked in. The group is highlighted by three of the top five players in the class in Dereck Lively II, Kyle Filipowski and Dariq Whitehead. Lively is 7-1, and Filipowski is 6-11. The Blue Devils may be among the nation’s youngest teams again next season, but they will also be among the most-talented with a pair of five-star prospects in the front court.

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