Good luck in NBA, Jordan Williams — you'll need it

May 04, 2011|By Kevin Cowherd

I hope Jordan Williams isn't making a huge mistake.

He's a great kid. And I hope he goes to the NBA and tears it up next season. But if you ask me if he's ready to compete with the best basketball players in the world over an 82-game grind, not counting the never-ending playoffs, my answer is no. One more year at College Park could have changed that.

On the other hand, I know this will shock you: Williams, Maryland's leading scorer and rebounder as a sophomore last year, never asked for my opinion about declaring for the NBA draft.

And now that he signed with an agent, meaning he can't return to the Terps, I guess the big lug won't be calling for any other career advice, either.

So I'll wish him all the luck in the world playing at the next level. And he'll need it, too.

Whoever's advising him has apparently convinced him that he'll be a first-round pick in next month's draft. I see him going lower than that, maybe in the middle of the second round. But no matter where he's drafted, he needs a lot of work on his game.

Mainly what he needs is work on his outside shot and ball-handling.

Even though he's listed at 6 feet 10he's probably closer to 6-9. Which means he'll play facing the basket in the NBA, where he'll have to put the ball on the floor and shoot consistently from the outside over monsters such as Kevin Garnett and Amare Stoudamire.

He also needs to work on his defense, especially his foot-work while defending smaller, quicker forwards such as Carmelo Anthony and LeBron James.

Which isn't to say that parts of Williams' game aren't NBA-ready. He runs the court extremely well, has great hands and catches the ball well in traffic, like a young Wes Unseld. And all Unseld did was end up in the NBA Hall of Fame.

Not only that, but Williams is also an absolute beast on the boards, with a motor that never quits.

How many times last year did he ferociously battle taller opponents for an offensive rebound, tipping the ball and keeping it alive until he gained control and scored on a put-back?

So I hope the kid goes to the pros and has a nice career and makes millions. But there's another reason why this might not be the best time to be leaving college early for the NBA.

Maybe you heard: there's a labor dispute on the horizon. In fact, it looks like the NBA might take a page from the brilliant strategic playbook of the NFL — you see how well that's working — and lock the players out at some point.

If that happens and the NBA season is shortened or even canceled, Williams could end up losing a ton of money and looking foolish.

In the meantime, Williams' departure is obviously a huge blow for the Maryland basketball program.

Think head coach Gary Williams seemed a little stressed on the sideline last year, when his team didn't even make the NIT, never mind the NCAA tournament? This season he'll be gobbling Rolaids like they're cocktail peanuts watching his team play without Jordan Williams.

The main problem is, the Terps really don't have a big man to take Jordan Williams' place.

Berend Weijs, the 6-10, 200-pound kid from the Netherlands, will need to seriously bulk up for his senior year to avoid getting pushed around in the paint.

James Padgett, the 6-8 forward, was a disappointment last season, earning decreased playing time and often looking like he was wearing hockey gloves when the ball came his way.

And 6-9 recruit Martin Breunig of Germany, who averaged 14 points and 10 rebounds for a military academy in Wisconsin last season, doesn't appear to be a true post-player — at least not yet.

In fact, I just looked at a highlight tape of Breunig's last year at St. John's Northwestern Military Academy. And the tape mainly featured the big guy dunking over a lot of smaller guys.

Which means … what? That Breunig can dunk? At 6-9, you kind of hope so. But soon we'll see if he can be any kind of an all-around offensive and defense presence during a typical ACC dock brawl against the likes of 6-10 Mason and Miles Plumlee from Duke and 7-foot Tyler Zeller and 6-10 John Henson from North Carolina.

In the meantime, we'll see where Jordan Williams ends up in next month's draft. Again, I wish the kid nothing but luck. He was a great Terp with a lot of heart.

It was a pleasure to watch him play.

kevin.cowherd@baltsun.com

(Listen to Kevin Cowherd Tuesdays from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. with Jerry Coleman on 1370 AM Sports.)

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