Durham, N.C. — With nine minutes to play in the first half, Zion Williamson corralled a rebound off a Syracuse Orange missed shot and quickly dribbled the ball up court. The only thing standing between he and the rim was Syracuse’s 6-foot-10, 180 lb sophomore, Marek Dolezaj.
The crowd lit up with oohs and aahs, reveling in what was about to come next. Williamson was about to put Dolezaj on a poster.
But Dolezaj stepped in front of Williamson, stood his ground and drew an offensive foul. The sophomore from Slovakia took the brunt of the collision though, giving up 100 lbs to the dunking sensation. It looked as though Dolezaj was shot out of a cannon.
Marek Dolezaj, thank you for your service pic.twitter.com/Lu23C1TkLb— Dylan Finer (@dfines31) January 15, 2019
“He got hurt. I’m trying to tell him to step in front of Williamson and I’m walking back saying ‘If he does that there’s going to be a problem.’ But he did. I hope he’s all right, I know he’s hurt now but he’s a tough kid. He’ll bounce back,” Jim Boeheim said.
Of the charge, Dolezaj himself said he didn’t even know what he was thinking. Instinct just took over and he stepped in front to make the play.
“I didn’t know what I was thinking but it hurt,” Dolezaj stated.
He said he fell on his back and the pain then shifted to his leg.
“No no no, I hit my lower back, the two bones,” Dolezaj elaborated. “I hit on my left side and it went straight to my leg and I couldn’t play.”
Dolezaj played the first six minutes of the second half after drawing the charge, but said he didn’t feel as mobile. When he returned to the sideline, Paschal Chukwu stepped up at center and delivered with 10 points, 18 rebounds and three blocks in the game. Their teammates appreciated their efforts, and specifically the courage of Dolezaj.
“Marek with a lot of heart and a lot of toughness and he just sits there and took a charge like that. Not many people do that,” Tyus Battle said. “I know he felt it but I mean that was a big possession right there.”
Elijah Hughes smiled when asked of the play — he knew how bad it was and it could’ve been worse.
“Oh man. Call 911 for a second. That’s what it looked like to me,” Hughes joked. “It looked like he got run over by a truck, scary to watch.”
Truck or not, there’s actually been a comparison that taking a charge from Williamson is the equivalent to being hit by a slow-moving jeep. Regardless, Frank Howard suggests there might be something in the water in Dolezaj’s homeland.
“Man that dude tough. I don’t know what they put in that Slovakian water,” Howard quipped. “But he stepped in there and took that one. He sent him flying, you know. Those types of plays win games.”
They certainly do. Dolezaj saved two, maybe three points on that possession. If it were a poster dunk, Dolezaj maybe saved some momentum, too.
Now somebody get the guy some pizza and maybe a stretcher.
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