ESPN personality Scott Van Pelt said late Tuesday afternoon that he provided former Maryland forward Jordan Williams with information from NBA talent evaluators, but denied that he attempted to directly influence Williams’s decision to enter the NBA draft.
“I had nothing to do with any decision that he made,” Van Pelt said in a telephone interview. “I didn’t inform him what to do. I didn’t tell him, ‘Here’s what I think.’ None of that.”
Earlier on Tuesday, following a pre-draft workout for the Washington Wizards at Verizon Center, Williams said Van Pelt “was a big factor in helping me make my decision” to go pro and that Van Pelt was “just giving me feedback, what he thought about it. Just trying to make me make the right decision.”
Williams called a reporter Tuesday afternoon at Van Pelt’s request to clarify his comments from earlier in the day.
“It’s going around the Internet like he was my main adviser and that he was the main reason why I left,” Williams said in the telephone interview. “That’s not the case at all. All I did was ask him to talk to the people that he knew and get some feedback from the guys he knows, and he just gave me the feedback. That’s all it was. He took it out of his time to help me out, as far as giving me feedback. It wasn’t like he was trying to convince me to go one way or the other, you know what I’m saying?”
Van Pelt said he gave similar feedback from NFL talent evaluators to former Maryland football player Torrey Smith last winter.
According to both Williams and Van Pelt, Smith later suggested to Williams that Van Pelt was someone Williams could reach out to in search of information on how Williams projected as a pro.
“Look, I know Torrey,” Van Pelt said. “I read the [article on Smith’s life by Washington Post staff writer Eric Prisbell]. I know the kid’s life. You want to try to help him make an informed decision. And so I gave him that information, and Torrey made the decision that he made.”
Smith entered the 2011 NFL draft and was selected in the second round by the Baltimore Ravens.
Williams announced he was staying in the NBA draft on May 4. Projections vary as to where he will be selected. NBADraft.net projects Williams to be drafted by the Detroit Pistons with the third pick of the second round. DraftExpress.com has Williams going to the Los Angeles Lakers with the 16th pick of the second round.
Van Pelt said his conversations with Williams solely were via text message or e-mail.
“There’s no editorializing on my part,” Van Pelt said. “There’s no: ‘You should go. You should stay.’ It’s just, ‘Here’s what the feedback is that you asked for,’ and that’s it. So I don’t know, he said I played a huge role? It’s his words, but his reaction to it today was that wasn’t what he meant.”
Following the publication of Williams’s comments from earlier Tuesday, Van Pelt traded text messages with Williams in which, according to Van Pelt, Williams suggested that the media is “always flipping things around.”
“Because I know Jordan some just from crossing paths at games, he asked, ‘Can you help me get information that gives me an idea of where I am?’ ” Van Pelt said. “That’s what I did, and the irony here is the feedback … was largely that he would benefit from coming back. And he decided to go, so I don’t know that the information that I relayed on to him really played any role at all in what he decided to do because he’s going to go pro.
“But that’s the extent of what happened. It’s important for me to make the distinction because I am sure Maryland fans all want to kill me because they think I told the kid to go pro. Well, I didn’t tell him anything. I didn’t tell him go. I didn’t tell him stay. I said nothing. I just passed on the information that he asked for.”
When asked how he would explain the disconnect between his interpretation of the impact his actions had on Williams’s decision to remain in the draft and Williams’s interpretation of Van Pelt’s impact on his choice, Van Pelt said he had “no idea.”
“I’m not an agent,” Van Pelt said. “I benefit in no way from the decision that he makes, one way or the other. His reaction to my text today, he’s giving me the old, ‘Twisting words around.’… What he meant, I cannot tell you. He’s the one that said it, but I don’t know what role I played other than he asked for information, and I gave it unfiltered.”
Later in the interview, Van Pelt said “the only interpretation I can make is that I was helpful in sharing information and feedback. That, I would say, yeah, I did that. But the headline I read, people are sending me, like: ‘Van Pelt, what are you doing? What are you talking about? ‘You told Jordan to go pro?’ What? Never once.
“And incidentally, I would never say one word to anybody on what they should do. It’s up to any kid to make a decision.”