Williams Says He's Surprised, But Supportive

Friday, April 21, 2006

Maryland Coach Gary Williams was shocked when two of his players, juniors D.J. Strawberry and Ekene Ibekwe , walked into his office earlier this week and said they were interested in entering June's NBA draft.

Even though neither player has a realistic chance to be selected in the two-round draft, Williams said he expects both to file the requisite paperwork to declare before the April 29 deadline for non-seniors.

"I would think so, because they have the blessing of their parents," Williams said. "As their coach, I can tell them how I feel. When it is a family decision, I can be a source of information, but I can't overrule the family. If that's what they want to do, they have my blessing."

Both are expected to pull out of the draft before the June 18 deadline and return to school, but certain individuals close to the players believe they have a chance to be first-round picks.

Williams said he will support both players and offer advice on the draft process. The players already have requested information through the NBA regarding their draft projection.

Williams told the players that NCAA rules stipulate they must pay their own expenses to attend private workouts for teams and that they can't accept gifts from representatives of sports agencies. He also cautioned them about listening to individuals who offer opinions on their draft potential.

"Can you make an objective decision at age 20 and not listen to the one guy who says you are going to be a first-round pick, when that's completely false?" Williams said. "Nowadays, you can find someone to tell you what you want to hear. That person who tells you what you want to hear is usually someone who wants to get something from you."

Williams also said senior backup point guard Sterling Ledbetter has left school and is training for what he hopes will be a professional career overseas.

-- Eric Prisbell

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