Maryland center Jordan Williams leaves for NBA draft

After strong sophomore season, he's projected as late first-round or second-round pick

May 04, 2011|By Jeff Barker, The Baltimore Sun

Sophomore center Jordan Williams — who led Maryland in rebounding in all but one game last season — signed with an agent and is entering the NBA draft, leaving the Terps with a frontcourt void.

Williams' decision was not a surprise. After losing 25 pounds before the season, he averaged 16.9 points and 11.8 rebounds and said he believes he is well-positioned for the draft. His draft standing might be improved because the possibility of an NBA lockout next season has influenced other top college players to stay in school.

After missing class time and not appearing at the recent men's basketball banquet, the 6-foot-10 Williams was presumed by some team members to be all but gone.

But the manner in which the story unfolded surprised even Maryland officials, who said they had not been informed as of Wednesday afternoon about the player's intentions.

Athletic department officials said Williams had not told them of his plans. Maryland coach Gary Williams, responding to a Baltimore Sun query, texted a reporter early Wednesday afternoon: "Don't know for sure. May 8 is decision day."

Shortly afterward, the player tweeted his intention to remain in the NBA draft: "I wanna thank TerpNation for the support over the past 2 years I hope yall continue to follow me on my journey to the top!!"

Jordan Williams, who has been working out for weeks at a basketball camp in Las Vegas, told Comcast SportsNet: "I feel like I put myself in the best position to get drafted in a good area of the draft. I'm confident in the progress I've made over the past month-and-a-half."

Williams' initial NBA flirtation in March was met with hostility from some Terps backers on fan websites. Many said he was not ready for the NBA, and some called him names like "bonehead."

Williams' former teammate, senior Dino Gregory (Mount St. Joseph), seemed to address that reaction, telling Williams on Twitter: "Congrats @JWilliams20 makin that choice despite the hate keep doin ur thing bro."

Williams could not be reached for comment, and his parents, Leron and Dee Williams, did not reply to email messages.

But the player told CSN: "It was definitely was a tough decision to make. People are going to speculate what they want to think about. I didn't completely stop going to class or anything like that. That's not the truth of the situation."

Williams has been projected in many mock drafts as a late first-round pick or a second-round selection.

Tony Turina, Williams' former coach from Torrington (Conn.) High, told The Sun in an email: "I have not heard anything from him or his family about this whole subject. They pretty much have kept all details about Jordan to themselves. I only hope that they included Coach Williams in their decision."

The Washington Post reported that Williams had signed with agent Andy Miller of ASM Sports — a move that prevents the player from withdrawing his name from the NBA draft and returning for his junior season. Maryland also said Williams had hired an agent.

Williams earned honorable mention All-America honors from the Associated Press. But it was a difficult season as Maryland made neither the NCAA tournament nor the National Invitation Tournament for the first time since 1992-93. Williams appeared to fight frustration at frequently being double-teamed and seeing his team repeatedly fall short in games against nationally ranked teams.

Without Williams, the Terps will need big contributions from other inside players such as Berend Weijs, James Padgett or Ashton Pankey. In Williams, Gregory and Cliff Tucker, the Terps are losing three of their top four rebounders.

Williams led or tied for the lead in Maryland rebounds in 32 of 33 games last season.

Said Pankey in a tweet: "Well now that we all know jordan is gone....its time for everybody to turn it up another notch to be ready for next season."

jeff.barker@baltsun.com

twitter.com/sunjeffbarker

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