The program announced yesterday what had been rumored for a few weeks, that sophomore forward Jordan Williams will declare for the NBA draft. While Williams has not hired an agent there are concerns that he also may not be academically eligible should he withdraw from the draft and return to College Park. At this point it would seem unlikely that Williams will be on the Maryland roster come this fall. With most draft projections indicating that Williams is a likely 2nd round pick and a probable lockout coming to the NBA in June this would seem to be a very ill advised decision by Jordan Williams. Perhaps the looming lockout will scare some more talented underclassmen to stay in college for another season but slipping into the first round of the draft because there will be a lockout (meaning the drafted players may not even get paid for an entire year) would seem to be the definition of a Pyrrhic victory. If Williams is set on putting his name into the draft against the advice of those around him that have a better idea of what it takes to stick in the NBA like Gary Williams and his former teammate Greivis Vasquez then there isn't much to do in that situation. Undersized players can make it in the NBA like Dejuan Blair, who left Pittsburgh as a sophomore as well, but Blair was a superior college player in a superior conference who outperformed Jordan Williams season in almost every measurable category. Instead of focusing on Blair who is an exception to the rule it would be wise to focus on a player like Chris Taft from Pitt who was also a 6-10 260 pound bruiser who slid to the 2nd round of the 2005 draft and is out of the NBA after developing back problems. Vasquez, Williams' road roommate last season, returned for his senior season and his phenomenal year along with the success of last years' squad helped him land in the 1st round of the NBA draft last year and guarantee him a contract. If Williams were to come back and the Terps were to have a great season then it would likely help his draft stock as well. In the last few drafts only about 50-60% of the players drafted in the 2nd round end up playing more than a handful of games or sticking on a NBA roster. There is likely to be a whole new salary structure in the NBA and perhaps being a 1st round pick won't guarantee the kinds of salary that players in the past have enjoyed or the ability to pocket guaranteed money even if you wash out of the league.
Williams piled up some gaudy numbers during his sophomore campaign but there were aspects of his skills that need significant improvement. He has little range beyond a few feet from the basket and his free throw shooting is still abysmal. Williams has excellent footwork and the strength to bull his way to the basket but he lacks athleticism and won't be able to physically overpower opponents in the NBA. His defense and effort towards the end of the season were shockingly bad as he was manhandled by Ty Zeller, Reggie Johnson and Assane Sene in his last three regular season games. While it may have seemed that Williams took a huge leap from his freshman season much of his improvement can be attributed to two factors. His minutes increased by about 25% from the prior year and he took 150 more shots than he did the prior season. Clearly Williams was demonstrably better than he was as a freshman and without Vasquez, Eric Hayes and Landon Milbourne around there were more shots to be had by everyone but you would expect him to increase his scoring and rebounding if he played more and took more shots. In conference his game was slightly more efficient this season as he had an 105.3 rating as a freshman to 109.8 as a sophomore but his field goal percentage (51.5% : 51.3%) and rebounding percentages (21.2 %: 26.9% ; Off Reb 10.7%:11.0%) were very similar if not identical. He really didn't become an appreciably better shooter or rebounder if you examine his tempo free statistics. Williams did do a great job of getting to the free throw line and keeping his turnovers down even though his usage increased substantially. Not all players get better the more possessions they use, such as Sean Mosley and Cliff Tucker, but Williams did and that isn't something to be dismissed. Overall Williams had a great statistical season that probably wasn't quite as good as it looked in the box score.
Losing Williams clearly hurts Maryland's chances next season. It looks to be another down year in the ACC depending on which underclass players decide to join Williams in the draft. Even with Williams Maryland's fortunes depend heavily on the improvement of guard play compared to this season. In college basketball a team can get by with mediocre post players but as Maryland fans witnessed this season you cannot get by with mediocre guard play. If you are going to lose a great player and still post a good season it is better that it be a post player than a great wing player. Perimeter play dominates outcomes in the college game today. There isn't a single team in the Final Four that is dependent on a dominating post player. Butler's Matt Howard is the closest thing among the four teams and he is hardly an offensive Juggernaut. The return of Jordan Williams won't mean much if guards like Terrell Stoglin, Pe'Shon Howard, Nick Faust and Sterling Gibbs cannot give Gary Williams solid play at their positions. If they can Maryland won't have a disastrous season regardless of whether Jordan Williams returns to Comcast Center.