Elmore shares Terps pride as Williams gives thanks

April 01, 1993|By Alan Goldstein | Alan Goldstein,Staff Writer

A strong bond exists between Len Elmore and Walt Williams that goes far beyond the customary attorney-client relationship in professional sports, where the bottom line on a contract is frequently the only link.

Elmore (Class of 1974) and Williams (1992) earned All-America honors playing basketball for Maryland. But they also apparently share the belief that an athlete owes a debt of gratitude to the college and community that supported him.

And so Elmore, a solid pro for 10 seasons before attending Harvard Law School and becoming a New York prosecutor, will take special pride tonight when Williams, a high-scoring rookie with Sacramento, is honored at the Kings' game with the Washington Bullets for establishing a $125,000 scholarship fund for African-Americans at his alma mater.

"I'm an attorney, not an agent, and I'm very selective in choosing whom I work with," said Elmore, the founder and director of Precept Sports and Entertainment.

"Walt is the most loyal and most communicative athlete I've been involved with. He's a leader, and he doesn't want to forget his roots. We talked about how he could pay back his community [Temple Hills, Md.], and he decided to establish this scholarship in his father's name."

Walt Williams Sr., who died of cancer last summer, was as much a friend as a father to his son.

"He was always there when I needed him," Williams said. "If I played a bad game, he wasn't afraid to tell me what I did wrong. The love was always there."

Even before endowing the scholarship, Williams had demonstrated his loyalty to Maryland by staying for his final two years despite NCAA sanctions that banned the Terps from postseason games and live television appearances. After his sophomore year, he turned down offers to transfer to Georgetown, St. John's, Virginia and Georgia Tech.

"That didn't surprise me," Elmore said. "It made sense. Walt had all these people from his community as a support group. He didn't want to desert his friends."

Williams said he has no doubt he made the right choice.

"A lot of players go through college without facing any real problems, like being in a dream," he said. "But going through all that turmoil helped me mature and taught me how to handle adversity."

In choosing to remain at Maryland, Williams also got a strong commitment from Terps coach Gary Williams, who said he would do everything possible to prepare his guard for the professional game.

It worked to the benefit of coach and player. Walt Williams averaged a school-record 26.8 points as a senior, led the Atlantic Coast Conference in scoring and made Maryland capable of competing against ACC powers Duke and North Carolina.

"I had two dreams entering Maryland -- going to the Final Four and being drafted by the NBA," Williams said. "I missed the first, but staying at Maryland definitely helped raise my game to the pro level."

The Kings made Williams the seventh pick in the 1992 NBA draft, after the Bullets took North Carolina State forward Tom Gugliotta despite strong urging by their fans to select Williams, the hometown hero.

"The Bullets thought Tom was the guy they needed," said Williams, 22. "He's done all they could hope for. But I'm happy with my situation in Sacramento, except for the losing."

Although the rebuilding Kings' primary needs were a point guard or strong rebounder, they viewed Williams as possessing the skills to fill any number of positions.

"We felt all along we'd take the best athlete available, and that was Walt Williams," said general manager Jerry Reynolds. "He's got a little bit of everything. There may be a slight weakness now, but, in time, everything will fit."

As a rookie, Williams, 6 feet 8, 220 pounds, has been asked to play guard and forward and even occasionally to guard a 7-0 center.

"I got accustomed to filling a lot of roles in college, and I see it as a positive challenge," said Williams, averaging 16.7 points, 4.5 rebounds and 3.0 assists. "Sometimes, moving around so much makes it hard to establish my shooting or inside game. It takes a lot of concentration learning all the different positions."

Garry St. Jean, in his first season as a head coach, said he is impressed by how quickly Williams has adjusted.

"I'm real excited about his potential," St. Jean said. "When I see all the skills he brings to the table, I want him to become dominant rather than being satisfied with his present level of accomplishment.

"Because of his size, he has the ability to post up smaller guards or to beat bigger forwards off the dribble. I want to put the ball in his hands as much as possible and watch him create something positive."

After an encouraging start, including a 40-point performance against the Philadelphia 76ers, Williams fractured his shooting hand in a game Jan. 19, an injury that sidelined him for 16 games.

"Naturally, I was discouraged at first," he said. "But I'd overcome injuries before. I broke my leg my junior year in college, but came back strong. I just decided to turn a negative into a positive.

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