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Jordan Williams will test the National Basketball Association waters today, just weeks removed from an outstanding sophomore season.
In 31 starts, as a freshman, Williams averaged 10 points and nine rebounds, helping Maryland to a near-defeat of Michigan State in the second round of the NCAA Tournament.
But a slimmer, more experienced Williams elevated his game more than anyone had expected him to do in year two. The Terrapins center would lead his team in points (16.9) and his conference in rebounding (11.8) en route to first team All-Atlantic Coast Conference honors.
Williams’ consistency and difference-making play helped him to set a flood of career marks, including 25 double-doubles, good for second-most in the nation. He also added his name among the all-time greats in Maryland history, breaking Len Elmore’s 13-game stretch of double-doubles in 1973-74 and Joe Smith’s sophomore record for rebounding.
More importantly, Williams was most effective when it counted. In the ACC Tournament, Williams averaged 16 points and 15 rebounds. And dating back to last season, he notched a double-double in each of his first two NCAA Tournament contests, including a dominant 21-17 effort against Houston.
So after a remarkable 2010-11 campaign, why not pursue a career in the big leagues?
For one, there is still a major portion of Williams’ game the big man needs to improve on before he can compete on the next level.
Williams made a bad habit out of flailing at the free-throw line in his team’s most pivotal games. Against No. 5 Pittsburgh, Williams registered just 2-7 from the charity stripe. A similar story veered itself again in the second-round ACC Tournament, when a 2-10 mark was a critical factor in the Terrapin’s second-half collapse against Duke.
Though Williams did improve upon his free-throw shooting throughout the season, 59 percent on the collegiate level will not translate well in The Association. Former Defensive Player of the Year Ben Wallace and perennial All-Star Shaquille O’Neal may be the exception.
It would also be beneficial for Williams to work on another important aspect of being an NBA big man – the jump shot. It is hard enough getting double-teamed in the ACC, but that pales in comparison to what could be expected on the next level.
Williams is an indubitable force on the boards, getting second-chance tip-ins, dunking and working the glass. But more often than not, when he stepped back to work his finesse game it simply was not there.
In order to beat double-teams and make defenders respect his overall game, Williams must develop that 16-foot jump shot, much like his teammate Dino Gregory worked to perfect throughout the season. Another year at Maryland could certainly provide that.
A third season would also allow Williams another shot to compete for some post-season hardware. As the leading scorer and go-to guy for the Terrapins, he could draw the credit for leading Maryland to yet another conference crown, especially in a potentially weakened pool of opponents.
Williams would be joined by seasoned guards Terrell Stoglin and Pe’Shon Howard, a veteran presence in Sean Mosley and highly touted newcomers in Nick Faust and Sterling Gibbs.
Do not rule out that possibility just yet. Williams did not hire an agent, which allows him the opportunity to return to Maryland and maintain eligibility. The deadline to withdraw their name from the draft is May 8.
Until then, Williams will be surged with feedback – both positive and negative – about the prospect of being an NBA player, much like former Terp Greivis Vasquez did following his sophomore season.
Vasquez ultimately opted to stay at Maryland, the right move considering the conference title, Bob Cousy Award and NCAA Tournament appearance which helped cement him as a first-round draft pick of the Memphis Grizzlies.
Perhaps Williams will endure a similar fate as Vasquez. Regardless, the coming weeks will loom exceedingly ominous for the future of Maryland basketball.