Spartanburg star basketball player Zion Williamson of Duke is in Columbia the next few days for the first round of the NCAA Tournament.
Teams had the chance Thursday to test out the court at Colonial Life Arena, where the games will be held. The practice is free and open to the public and it’s a chance for fans to see the superstars in action ahead of the big games. The fans filed into the arena to see Duke practice, attracting fans both young and old.
Reporter Georgiaree Godfrey asked a toddler sporting a “Zion” shirt why he was at the practice Thursday. The young boy replied, “Zion because he can shoot and dunk,” said Beckett Moody.
His mother agreed. “I got teary eyed. It’s kind of surreal. I went to the ACC championship Saturday night and I had a good feeling they were going to come here after beating Florida State.”
At that same press conference with Zion Williamson, Duke University head basketball Coach Mike Krzyzewski was asked many questions about Friday’s game, his players, and past games.
The coach was also asked about Virginia’s upset in 2018. No. 1 seed Virginia lost to No. 16 UMBC in one of the largest upsets in college basketball history.
Krzyzewski replied, “…The team we play tomorrow is a championship team. They won the Summit League. It’s different when you’re playing a championship level team. So they know how to win. They’ve been in pressure situations. Theyve been in that moment and they’ll have that moment again tomorrow. We respect that and we’ll be prepared to play a championship team.”
Duke will take on North Dakota State at 7:10 p.m Friday, March 22.
Experience Columbia SC, a tourism marketing group in the Midlands, hosted the Segra Fan Fest held a the Columbia Metropolitan Convention Center next door to the arena. The free event featured games, body marbling, basketball hoops, vendors, and giveaways.
The groups says from the teams alone Columbia could see an estimated $3-$4 million in economic impact.
Kelly Barbrey with Experience Columbia SC continued, “When you add in all the fans that are coming and the dining we’re probably going to top out at the $9 million economic impact mark.”