Former Maryland center Jordan Williams — reached this week in Las Vegas, where he has been working out in preparation for the NBA draft — said he is aware of speculation that his decision to leave school early prompted Gary Williams’s retirement but discounts the theory.
“It’ll pop into my mind; I wonder why he did it the day after I signed with an agent,” Jordan Williams conceded in a telephone interview. “But I don’t think one player could affect 22 years of work. I’m sure he put a lot of time and effort into his decision and did it for all the right reasons.”
The 6-foot-10 Jordan Williams, who expects to play power forward in the NBA, said he was shocked, like so many people, by Gary Williams’s retirement.
“I was in the car heading to one of my workouts when I got a text from one of my teammates that said, ‘Your coach retired,’ ” Jordan Williams said. “I couldn’t believe it. It was definitely a shock to me and the college basketball world.”
The announcement came one day after Williams announced he had signed with an agent, ending his college eligibility after two seasons at Maryland. While the move was expected, it dealt a major blow to the Terrapins heading into next season.
Maryland struggled to a 19-14 record (7-9 in the ACC) despite Williams’s school-record 25 double-doubles. The center also led the team in scoring (16.9 points per game) and rebounding (11.8 per game).
Still, Jordan Williams’s coach — as well as many others — felt he would benefit from a third season at Maryland, affording the chance to improve his jump shot, free throw shooting and defense.
But the player said he had managed to do all of that — and more efficiently — through custom-tailored workouts at Impact Basketball in Las Vegas, where numerous NBA prospects prepare for the draft.
According to Jordan Williams, since he arrived at the gym in late March, roughly six weeks ago, he has pared his body fat from 13.8 percent to 8.9 percent. (Check out a recent photo of Williams here.)
“I’ve changed my body type; I look like a completely different person,” Jordan Williams said. “And skill-wise, my jump shot is more pure than it was before. I have a lot more confidence in it. I’m still working on my back-to-the-basket game, but now I’m more of a threat because I can shoot the 15-foot jump shot and not think about it.”
The decision to leave Maryland wasn’t easy, he said.
“I had built up a family at Maryland,” he said. “I met a lot of great people and made a lot of great friends. It wasn’t like an overnight thing [to decide]: ‘I’m going to go to the NBA.’
But the voices of skeptics and doubters only increased his resolve.
“A lot of people were saying I’m not going to get drafted, but I’ve worked my way up to prove that I should be in the NBA draft,” Williams said. “It was a very tough thing to do, but I felt it was the right time.”
Now, with roughly six weeks remaining before the June 23 draft, Jordan Williams’s stock is apparently rising. According to reports he is getting, he’ll be picked late in the first round or early in the second — anywhere from 15th to 40th. Only first-round selections are guaranteed contracts.
As for the prospect of an NBA lockout, he said it didn’t factor in his decision.
“Obviously I knew going in there was a possibility of a lockout,” Jordan Williams said. “Some people were affected by and decided they’d rather stay in college and play. To me, I felt like this was the right time for me to go, regardless of what the [NBA labor] situation was.”
He has assured his parents that he’ll return to Maryland and complete his degree in the future. And he says he feels nothing but gratitude for the support he received from Terrapin fans, as well as the help he got on and off the court from Coach Gary Williams.
“The Maryland fans — they’re like a sixth man to us,” Jordan Williams said. “They really helped me with my confidence. As soon as I walked on campus they embraced me. They’re the best fans in the world, and I really appreciate what they did. And I want to thank Coach Williams for everything he did for me.”
But with his parents’ support, he opted to leave.
“I told my mom and dad when I was 10 years old that I was going to play in the NBA,” Jordan Williams said. “I didn’t know what the NBA was, really. I just wanted to do it. To make it a reality is definitely a blessing and a dream come true for me.”