UPDATED 2:46 WITH JORDAN WILLIAMS TWEET
UPDATED 5:45 WITH MARYLAND COMMENT
Jordan Williams, Maryland’s leading scorer and rebounder as a sophomore center last season, has signed with an agent and will keep his name in the NBA draft, ending his career in College Park.
According to individuals with knowledge of the situation, Williams will be represented by agent Andy Miller of ASM Sports, whose clients include NBA players Kevin Garnett and Chauncey Billups.
“We wish Jordan well as he pursues his dream of playing in the NBA,” Terrapins Coach Gary Williams said in a statement released by the school.
Wednesday afternoon, Jordan Williams wrote on Twitter: “Thank you for all the support . . . it really means a lot!! It’s been a dream to play in the NBA and now I finally have the opportunity!!”
Jordan Williams’s departure represents a major blow to the Terrapins, who struggled to a 19-14, 7-9 record, finished seventh in the ACC standings and were overlooked for an at-large bid in both the NCAA tournament and the National Invitation Tournament for the first time in 17 years.
Listed at 6 feet 10, Williams averaged 16.9 points and an ACC-best 11.8 rebounds per game for the Terrapins in 2010-11 and set a single-season school record with 25 double-doubles.
Underclassmen who submitted their names for the NBA draft have until Sunday to withdraw in order to retain their college eligibility, provided they haven’t signed with an agent.
That was Williams’s approach initially. But since working out in recent weeks at Impact Basketball in Las Vegas — where Miller’s clients from last year’s draft trained (among them Craig Brackins, Trevor Booker and Devin Ebanks) — Williams apparently concluded that he’s ready to turn pro.
Without Williams, Maryland is left with gaping holes in its front court next season. He and fellow front-court player Dino Gregory, who is due to graduate this month, were the only Terrapins to start all 33 games last season.
Berend Weijs, a 6-10, 200-pound center, needs considerably more bulk and muscle to withstand the pounding of an ACC season. Weijs appeared in 23 games as a junior last season, averaging 5.2 minutes, 1.8 points and 1.1 rebounds.
Rising sophomore Hauk Palsson, who is 6-6, started three games at forward, including Maryland’s two ACC tournament games. Palsson averaged 2.8 point and 2.1 rebounds. Forwards James Padgett, a rising junior, and Mychal Parker, a rising sophomore, averaged 8.7 and 6.2 minutes per game, respectively.
Maryland’s recruiting class for next season includes 6-9 forward Martin Breunig of Germany, who averaged 14 points and 10 rebounds at St. John’s Northwestern Military academy in Wisconsin, and a pair of guards: 6-6 shooting guard Nick Faust from Baltimore and 6-1 point guard Sterling Gibbs from Seton Hall Prep in New Jersey.
And it’s possible that 6-9 forward Wally Judge, who abruptly quit Kansas State’s team in January, could transfer in, though Judge would almost certainly be required to sit out the 2011-12 season under NCAA rules. A former McDonald’s all-American from Landover, Judge has reportedly narrowed his choices to Maryland, Rutgers and Washington.
Williams could not be reached to comment, and his father said by text message that the family had decided not to comment after reading so many negative comments about their son’s decision to submit his name for the draft last month.
Williams still has work to do if he hopes to make an impact in the NBA. At 6-10, it’s doubtful he’d be used as a center in the NBA. To make a successful transition to power forward, he needs to develop his skills facing the basket — adding a reliable 15-foot jump shot, for example — and work on playing better defense. Free throw shooting is a glaring weakness, as well: Williams shot just 57.5 percent from the foul line last season.
Opinions differ about Williams’s NBA draft prospects. DraftExpress.com, considered among the more credible Web sites devoted to the issue, projects him as being chosen in the middle of the second round, 45th overall. But NBADraft.net and HoopsHype.com both have him going 22nd in the first round.
With the specter of a potential NBA lockout looming, many top-rated underclassmen are opting to stay in college another year, fearful of squandering their eligibility and then having no way to earn a living or develop their skills if the season is canceled.
A player like Williams, who isn’t considered a lottery pick, could then find that his draft-day standing is improved if higher-rated players sit out the process.
Chief among the coveted big men not declaring for the NBA draft is Ohio State’s Jared Sullinger, who was projected as a top five pick but decided to return for his sophomore season to improve his skills and help the Buckeyes contend for an NCAA title.
“With Sullinger not putting his name in, [Williams] is a big, powerful guy,” said a scout for a Western Conference team, who requested anonymity because he was not authorized to speak publicly about prospective NBA players. “You know he’s going to rebound. That’s one thing he’s going to do. That skill will translate. He’s going to be a first-round guy now, no doubt. He’s still a first-round guy even with Sullinger in, but I think this probably will push him up some. Once people start bringing him in and really see his footwork, how soft his hands are, how good his hands are, he’s going to be a first-round guy without a doubt.”
The NBA draft is June 23.