Pittsburgh, PA—Before leaving Duke to take over as head coach at Pitt, Jeff Capel spent several years helping amass top recruiting classes for the Blue Devils. Capel was a driving force in recruiting players who stayed one season at Duke and became NBA lottery picks like Jabari Parker, Jahlil Okafor, Justise Winslow, Brandon Ingram, Jayson Tatum, Wendell Carter and Marvin Bagley III. So when Capel left the confines of Durham for Pittsburgh, Zion Williamson was rumored to follow. Pitt embarrassingly lost 18 straight games during ACC Conference play in the 2017-2018 season and 11 players departed the program due to graduation or transfers. If Williamson decided to break his commitment to Duke, he was sure to be the focal point of a rebuilding Panther team and put up gaudy numbers in Capel’s uptempo system. While in town for an official visit in May of 2018, an incident on campus left Williamson with an easy decision.
Tony Bronzini interviewed Capel on Friday and the new head coach discussed how the Zion Williamson era at Pitt fell apart before it started. “Zion was ready to join us here in Oakland. He knew the team was depleted after an atrocious 2017 and didn’t view that as a negative at all. Zion wanted to be the guy and make it his team. In my mind, there’s no doubt that kid averages 30 and 15 for us and gets drafted number one overall in June. Unfortunately, we have a strong Amish presence on campus and there was an incident during Zion’s visit in May. This triggered a deep rooted phobia of the Amish that dates back to his AAU days.” The incident in question stemmed from a previously unknown condition called Trineophobia, or fear of the Amish, that plagued Williamson since he was a child. Williamson visited Pittsburgh this past May with the intention to break his commitment to Duke and enroll immediately at the University of Pittsburgh. Coach Capel and other members of the Pitt basketball coaching staff took Zion and his family on a tour of campus upon his arrival in Pittsburgh. During the tour, their group came across an inter-Amish baseball game. The University of Pittsburgh has the highest percentage of Amish students in the country and offers many inter-Amish sport leagues on campus. Unbeknownst to Capel, this simple baseball game triggered an episode for Zion. “As we turn a corner onto 5th Avenue, he sees the inter-Amish baseball game taking place. There were at least 50 Amish students in the stands watching, the umpires were Amish and obviously all the players were Amish. The sight of almost 100 Amish students in one place set-off his Trineophobia and Zion immediately ran in the other direction. After searching for over an hour with campus police, we found Zion hiding in the bathroom of a Radio Shack.”
Trineophobia is on the rise in recent years. An estimated 3.5% of all American citizens struggle with the disease and another 5% claim to feel uncomfortable around the Amish or Amish made goods. Even though Zion Williamson spurned Jeff Capel and the University of Pittsburgh due to his fears, he will be forced to make a return on January 22nd when the Blue Devils travel to Pittsburgh for an ACC conference game. Tony Bronzini spoke with coach Mike Krzyzewski via phone and he voiced some concerns about the situation, “Am I worried about Zion’s trineophobia? Yes absolutely. During Zion’s recruiting visit he wouldn’t sit in a chair until we convinced him it wasn’t made by the Amish. He also wanted reassurance no roof on campus would be fixed by the Amish, or even descendants of the Pennsylvania Dutch. I’m very worried about traveling to Pittsburgh on January 22nd. We even scheduled a flight pattern that wouldn’t take us over any Amish communities per Zion’s request.”