Maryland big man Jordan Williams, center, was taken with the 36th overall pick by the New Jersey Nets. (Jonathan Ernst/FOR THE WASHINGTON POST)

In the hours leading up to the 2011 NBA draft, Maryland’s Jordan Williams joked on his Twitter account that he had waited 20 years for this moment, so having to wait a few extra hours to hear his name called wouldn’t matter in the end.

That logic proved prophetic, as the 6-foot-10 forward watched team after team bypass him in the first round Thursday night. But more than three hours after the draft began, the New Jersey Nets ended his anxiety-filled night, selecting Williams with the 36th overall pick in the second round.

And true to form since making the controversial decision to hire an agent last month and forgo his final two years of eligibility in College Park, Williams expressed no regrets now that his NBA dreams have been realized.

“It wasn’t the first round, but it’s a huge sigh of relief,” Williams said late Thursday night from his home in Torrington, Conn. “It was tough watching, but coming out as a sophomore and being one of the youngest guys in the draft class, it’s definitely an honor. I’m just glad I landed where I did.”

Williams said he “got a good feel” from the Nets during his pre-draft workout in New Jersey, and even had a message for Maryland fans who may have been critical of his choice to leave school early.

“I just want to thank them because without them I wouldn’t be here,” Williams said. “During my two years, they gave me the confidence that I could go through this process.”

Duke guard Nolan Smith can empathize with the nerves created by draft night. The son of former Washington Bullets assistant Derek Smith, he averaged 20.6 points and 5.1 assists per game this season, but some pre-draft speculation had Smith falling into the second round.

So the reigning ACC player of the year spent much of his draft party in a separate room of his Upper Marlboro home, watching the draft telecast alone with his mother, sister and stepfather. He even went to the gym Thursday afternoon with his trainer, working out as he tried to suppress any draft-day anxiety.

Smith, though, went earlier than some predicted when the Portland Trail Blazers selected him with No. 21 pick in the first round. And with his NBA dreams now a reality, he understands his work has only begun.

“On a day when you’re gonna reach your dream, the best way to feel comfortable about your situation that night is to be in the gym,” said Smith, who declared for the draft without hiring an agent after Duke won the national championship in 2010 but pulled his name out to return to school for his senior season.
“That’s where you’ve been your whole life up until the draft, and that’s where you should be on draft day,” he added. “I didn’t want to take a day off.”

Richmond star Justin Harper was drafted by the Cleveland Cavaliers with the 22nd pick. Baltimore native Josh Selby (DeMatha) dropped to the 49th overall selection when the Memphis Grizzlies chose him. Selby left Kansas after averaging 7.9 points per game as a freshman this past season.

Perhaps more notable than the players with local ties that heard their name called Thursday were those from the area that went unselected.

Prominent players not picked included Georgetown’s Austin Freeman and Chris Wright, Virginia Tech’s Malcolm Delaney and Jeff Allen, George Mason’s Cam Long, American’s Vlad Moldoveanu, and Clemson’s Jerai Grant.