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Kindred

He is a 6-foot-7, 285-pound teenager with brute strength, uncanny quickness, leaping ability, a soft touch and a showman's flair. You know all about him. We all do.

The Zion Williamson experience is another level, even by Duke standards. He is a jaw-dropping blend of Grant Hill, Charles Barkley and Shaquille O'Neal — in their youth — with his athleticism and power.

By nature, playing at Duke thrusts one in front of the masses. The NCAA Tournament has served to expose the overexposed Williamson to viewers who spent the past four months blindfolded or under a rock. Maybe both.

The tournament also has made this clear. The only thing better than watching Williamson is doing it with Bill Raftery at courtside and in our collective ear.

Friday night, while Duke was escaping a second straight scare with a 75-73 win over Virginia Tech, Williamson went on one of his runaway train drives to the basket.

As usual, he finished with authority.

First, Raftery said he'd want no part of sitting in the front row behind the basket with Williamson on the loose.

Then, in vintage Raf-speak, he added, "When he attacks, hide the children!"

Williamson is that kind of player. Stepping in front of him to take a charge is courageous but costly, admirable but ill-advised.  

Hide the children indeed.

Raftery has been at this for more than 35 years, calling games for a variety of networks in all sorts of gyms, arenas and outposts. He gives the impression he's never met a game he couldn't wrap his arms around. It makes you want to embrace it too.

He is a quick wit and a catchy phrase in a sport dogged by corruption, indictments and guilty pleas. He brings light to the darkness and who doesn't need that, whether it's college basketball or finding the toilet at 4 in the morning?

Hide the children!

Raftery is the guy you'd love to watch the game with in your living room. That separates him from most analysts, including another former coach prone to catch phrases, Dick Vitale.

Watch the game with Vitale and he'd wake the baby. The volume is always on high. Raftery is not as bombastic, a "picks his spots" kind of guy who seemingly is not in character, just in tune with himself.

Over the years he has given us "the kiss" for a bank shot, "the tin" for the rim, the "nickel-dimer" for a cheap foul, "lingerie" for when a player is faked out (i.e. undressed) by an opponent's move.

He tells king-sized dunkers to "Send it in big fella!" and gushes "Onions!" when a player makes a late clutch shot ... a reference to his toughness and, well, something else.

There are others to be sure. Maybe you have a favorite.

Mine is when a player fires up an off-balance shot with his feet out of sync.

"Settle those puppies!" he'll offer, or, "Get the puppies set!"

Raftery has said many of his phrases emerged organically after he began television work, quick-hitters designed to avoid interfering with the play by play man's call.

For some it may be too much shtick, but Raftery provides substance as well. He knows the game from all angles, having been a star player at La Salle University before head coaching stints at Fairleigh Dickinson-Madison and Seton Hall. He had a modest .535 winning percentage (217-188) before finding his niche behind a microphone. 

At 75, he is on top of his game. At 18, so is Williamson.

It's a joy to have them together.

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Contact Randy Kindred at (309) 820-3402. Follow him on Twitter: @pg_kindred

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Sports Editor

Sports editor for Lee Enterprises Central Illinois.

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