Reporting David Elfin
What is Jordan Williams thinking? The biggest man on Maryland’s campus left school after a very good – but not sensational — sophomore season for what he expects to be the riches of the NBA.
Trouble number one is that the 6-foot-9, 247-pound Williams didn’t seem NBA-ready much of the time January and February in a down year in the ACC before he finished the season strong en route to a school-record 25 double-doubles while averaging 16.9 points and 11.8 rebounds.
Trouble number two is that the NBA is heading towards a lockout on July 1 that will leave even the No. 1 overall pick in tomorrow’s draft unsigned.
Sure, Williams and the rest of the rookies will be able to sign endorsement deals with shoe companies et al, but if the labor impasse threatens or, heaven forbid, cancels the 2011-12 NBA season, then how foolish will the decision look.
Talking to Johnny Holliday the other day, he reeled off the best Maryland players he has covered during his 32 years as the voice of the Terps: Len Bias, Albert King, Juan Dixon and Greivis Vasquez. Aside from leading Maryland to NCAA tournaments, they also all stayed in College Park for four seasons.
Williams didn’t come close to cracking that list. Instead, his situation seems similar to that of former Terps forward Chris Wilcox, who left school following his sophomore season after starting alongside Dixon, Lonny Baxter, Steve Blake and Byron Mouton as Maryland won its only national title in 2002.
Wilcox went eighth overall in the 2002 NBA draft to the perennially awful Los Angeles Clippers. He never averaged more than 8.6 points or 4.7 rebounds during his three and a half years there before being traded to Seattle. Wilcox finished out that 2005-06 season by averaging career-highs of 14.1 points and 8.2 points for the Sonics. He had two more solid seasons as a starter in Seattle before becoming a backup in Oklahoma City, New York and Detroit. Still just 28, Wilcox has had an unmemorable nine-year career during which he has never suited up for a playoff game.
If Williams wants a career like that, he might be able to manage it if he develops a more consistent jump shot and better free throw accuracy as he makes the moves from college center to NBA power forward.
However, unlike Wilcox, Williams is ranked anywhere from 33rd-46th in mock drafts and on lists of available players. So, even if the NBA and the Players Association agree to a deal this summer, as a second-round selection Williams won’t receive the huge contract that he might have if he had stayed in school and dominated the ACC as a junior.
Still just 20 and used to getting his way, Williams can be forgiven for making a wrongheaded choice, but those who advised him to make it should be feeling pretty sheepish if he’s drafted as low as projected tomorrow.
You can’t go back now, Jordan. Sorry.
David Elfin has covered sports since he was a junior at Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School in 1975. He is the Washington representative on the Pro Football Hall of Fame selection committee and is the former President of the Pro Football Writers of America. A pre-game regular on 106.7-The Fan during the 2010 Redskins season, he returned to the station as its blogger in March