Still, even college administrators said he should at least considered skipping it.
“Every time there’s something like this, there needs to be continual exploration and dialogue about what, if anything, should be done to make it different,” said Dan Beebe, a consultant and former commissioner of the Big 12 Conference.
“Do we provide more resources because of all the money coming in and others who are benefiting from it — including coaches, athletic directors, commissioners?” Beebe added. “But then you get into really complex questions that need to be asked about how far do you go with that?”
In football, a more injury-prone sport, there have been recent examples of players skipping season-ending bowl games before they enter the N.F.L. draft. In October, Ohio State defensive lineman Nick Bosa, a junior, had surgery after a core muscle injury. While there was no timetable for his return, he announced then that he would withdraw from college to focus on recovering and training for the draft.
The questions surrounding Williamson’s options are related to those that an N.C.A.A. commission addressed last season after federal prosecutors revealed extensive corruption in college basketball recruiting. Some of the remedies the commission proposed could eliminate future situations like Williamson’s. For instance, it lobbied the N.B.A. and its players’ union to eliminate the current rule requiring players to be a year removed from high school before playing in the league. The league already plans to create the opportunity for elite players to earn $125,000 salaries in its developmental league rather than attend college.
But the commission did not address what many say is the fundamental issue: the gap between the money that players like Williamson generate for universities, leagues, apparel companies and others, and those players’ inability to be compensated.
In that light, what might be most shocking about Williamson’s current situation is that something like it did not happen sooner.
On Wednesday, hours before the Duke-North Carolina game, Huma was on the phone with a staff member for a Washington state senator who is sponsoring a bill that would permit athletes to be paid and to retain agents.
“I literally gave the example: What if Zion Williamson got hurt?” Huma said.
“I guarantee you,” he added, “if Duke were free to offer Zion Williamson money for him to play, they would jump at the chance.”