Maryland's Jordan Williams relishes the chance to 'prove 'em wrong'
Friday, February 11, 2011; 11:59 PM
When the Torrington Red Raiders launched their 2008-09 season, their coach told them they needed a rallying cry - something to splash on a T-shirt that would declare the grit of the often-overlooked high school squad from rural Connecticut.
The Raiders' star player, Jordan Williams, came up with it: "Prove 'Em Wrong!" And the slogan carried the team to the Class L state championship game, where it was edged by Bulkeley High, 58-57, despite Williams's 36 points, 13 rebounds and 9 blocks.
That T-shirt would be apt for Williams's current team, as well, with Maryland (16-8, 5-4 ACC) currently on the outside of the projected 68-team NCAA tournament field and just seven regular season games remaining to muscle its way in.
That critical stretch starts Saturday, when the Terrapins travel to Boston College seeking to avenge a Dec. 12 defeat in their ACC opener at Comcast Center.
Williams, a 6-foot-10, 260-pound sophomore center, has surely shouldered his load for the Terrapins. He leads the team in scoring (17.3 points per game) and rebounding (11.9 per game) and has managed double figures in both 20 times this season - something only one other Division I player has managed.
As a result, he's the focal point of opponents, tying up two and sometimes three defenders at a time, which frees up his teammates for open shots.
"He's invaluable," says ESPN analyst Len Elmore, a former NBA player and all-American at Maryland whose school-record streak of 12 consecutive double-doubles was snapped by Williams this season. "And the more he plays, the better he'll get."
The NBA is always in the market for big men who can command games. Given the strides Williams has made this season - in fitness, physicality and production - there's little doubt he's on track to become a first-round NBA pick.
But is he ready, at 20, for the next step?
Williams is an efficient rebounder and scorer, particularly under the basket, skilled in getting his broad shoulders in front of defenders.
He has deft hands for a big man, something he credits to six years as a soccer goalkeeper before shifting his focus to basketball, and a strong work ethic.
But there's plenty of room for improvement. Williams is shaky from the free throw line (he's shooting 55.4 percent this season), lacks elevation and has yet to prove he can consistently knock down 12- to 15-foot jump shots - key for an NBA power forward, where he'd likely play.