Jordan Williams changes diet, physique to improve draft position


Former Maryland forward Jordan Williams has lost 15 pounds since leaving College Park. (John McDonnell/THE WASHINGTON POST)

When Jordan Williams arrived in Las Vegas to get ready for the NBA draft, he started hearing about a popular chicken finger restaurant and had to beg people around him to stop talking about the place.

“Everybody was bragging about this place,” the former Maryland forward said. “I’m just like, ‘Don’t tell me about it. If I go there, I won’t stop eating it.’ ”

Williams understands that the best way to stay committed to the new diet and training regimen that has resulted in him losing 15 pounds from the time he left College Park is simply to avoid the temptation for “greasy foods, food I don’t need. Food that tastes good, basically.”

He didn’t have similar restraint in college, where he lived a two-minute walk from a McDonald’s and said he “had to” stop by every morning to pick up a McGriddle before heading to class.

“That was my favorite thing,” Williams said with a laugh last week at the NBA combine in Chicago. His questionable eating habits didn’t prevent Williams from leading Maryland in scoring and rebounding or setting a school record with 25 double-doubles as a sophomore, but he realized that he had to make some sacrifices in order to improve his chances of going higher in the NBA draft.

“I didn’t want to do it, by all means. But deep down, if you want to be successful and you think about who you’re doing it for, making people proud, my family, it’s way bigger,” he said. “Eating a Big Mac? Or getting drafted higher? You have to choose.”

Williams’s choice has been obvious, based on the improved body that has come as the result of nearly two months of workouts off the Las Vegas strip at the Impact basketball facility with trainers Joe Abunassar and Andrew Moore. He trained three times a day, working on post moves in the morning, hitting the weight room in the afternoon and taking jumpers in the evening.

Williams said he seriously started to consider entering the NBA draft after having some impressive games against Villanova and Duke, but he credited the training program at Impact with giving him the confidence to stay in a draft in which he is slotted to go anywhere from 15 to 40. He added that he spoke with then-Maryland Coach Gary Williams before making his decision to leave.

“Me and him kept a strong relationship, back and forth and finding out what I wanted to do,” Jordan Williams said. “He was giving me good feedback. Of course, he’s going to have an opinion and he was basically saying that he respects the decision I make and he just hoped I made the right decision.”

But he had no idea that Gary Williams would announce his retirement the day after he announced that he had signed with agent Andy Miller. “That was very surprising. It shocked me,” Jordan Williams said, adding that the Terrapins will be a lot different with a new coach in Mark Turgeon. “Some of my teammates are still there, so it’s still going to be an unbelievable program, but it’s weird to look back on it, and see how different it is. It’s been really crazy. It’s like the whole program has flipped upside down.”

The 6-foot-9 Williams has made a dramatic physical transformation since he arrived at Maryland two years ago weighing 281 pounds. He said that he started to really feel the results in Las Vegas, which has made it easy for him to stay committed to his program. He weighed in at 247 pounds at the combine and had 12.1 percent body fat, which was third-highest of the 54 participants but a 2 percent improvement from when he left Maryland.

“It really is 100 percent mental, if you can discipline yourself enough to just not do it,” he said of replacing greasy foods with more salads. “Once you get a week and a half, two weeks without doing it, you just forget about it. You see the results and your body changes so quickly, you want to continue to do it. It’s almost like you become addicted to changing your body. It’s really positive.”

Williams said his sleeker physique has increased his endurance and given him the versatility to defend either forward position. “Before I was kind of pacing myself. I couldn’t play 100 percent all the time and now I’m at a point where I’ve lost the weight and I can do a lot more things that makes it a lot easier for me to enjoy the game. That’s a huge part of why I’m getting better every day. I’ve been playing more above the rim than in college. I move better defensively.”

When asked what he expects to provide for the team that drafts him, Williams said, “I think rebounding and doing the dirty work, doing a lot of plays that a lot of players aren’t willing to make. I think rebounding is one of the main things I do. That’s one of the things you can’t teach, and that’s rebounding and getting after it. I think that’s really important — the hunger.”

And also resisting the craving for those McGriddles.

Michael Lee is the national basketball writer for The Washington Post.
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