I don't think most Maryland basketball fans actually believe that Jordan Williams is going to leave college for the NBA. Either that, or maybe they don't want to think about how devastating it would be for the current team. But Williams, who recently finished his sophomore season, is apparently seriously considering whether or not to leave College Park for the chance to earn some money in the NBA.
There are many different factors -- how well Williams stacks up against the competition, which other players end up turning pro, the NBA's current (and impending) financial dilemma, whether Williams is ready to simply move on to the next level, etc. -- that are influencing Williams's decision, and I fully believe that his final choice will not come without lots of deliberation and planning. Still, it's possible that he leaves, and that would leave the Terps with a huge hole in their frontcourt.
According to Rivals.com, Maryland has essentially finalized three recruits so far for next season: Nick Faust, Sterling Gibbs, and Martin Breunig. Out of their 13 scholarships for the upcoming season, they have 12 locked up. If Williams departs, they'll have an extra one to work with, meaning they would likely target a frontcourt guy or two.
On their current roster, the Terps don't have a single player who can duplicate what the 6'10, 260 pound Williams recently accomplished. After playing reasonably well (9.6 points, 8.6 rebounds, 51.2 percent shooting) and exceeding expectations in his freshman season, Williams took a tremendous step forward (which is saying something) as a sophomore. He scored more points (16.9), grabbed more rebounds (11.8), shot better from the field (53.8 percent), and played almost eight more minutes per game, all the while playing on a less-talented team that lost seniors Greivis Vasquez, Eric Hayes, and Landon Milbourne the season before. Remember, Dino Gregory is graduating, meaning that without Williams too, Maryland would have to go with two new starters in the frontcourt.
Of the current recruits, Faust and Gibbs are guards, and although Breunig is 6'9 and 205 pounds, he's more of a shooter and perimeter player -- not someone who's going to bang much inside and score routinely from the post. So, besides targeting another big guy or two -- and even then, he (or they) would still be young and inexperienced -- Maryland has limited (non-freshman) options. They are:
- Berend Weijs (6'10, 200 pounds, Senior)
- James Padgett (6'8, 215, Junior)
- Ashton Pankey (6'9, 220, Sophomore)
- Haukur Palsson (6'6, 190, Sophomore)
Pankey only played in one game, and just three minutes, all of last season, so he's probably not much of a solution. Palsson, while having a pretty strong showing for a freshman, is more of a small forward, though when Maryland got in foul trouble, he did see time at the four. So in terms of size and (some) experience, the options are Padgett and Weijs. Padgett (8.7) played more minutes than Weijs (5.2) this past season, but that's not really saying much. I imagine that Padgett would be the guy to get the first real chance, but it's hard to get excited about either guy, especially since neither has played many minutes or done much besides a few nice plays here and there.
Simply put, Maryland is going to be in big trouble if Williams leaves -- not exactly a stunning statement. Yet, I still think that Gary Williams would be able to make the best out of that potential makeshift frontcourt, mainly because I don't believe there are many things Gary Williams relishes more than winning games while riding into battle with inferior talent. Also, it's not like the Terps would be without weapons of their own; they just wouldn't receive a whole lot of offensive production from their big men. Unless Faust forces his way into the starting lineup early on, Maryland's starting backcourt will likely be Pe'Shon Howard and Terrell Stoglin, two guys who got plenty of minutes while Adrian Bowie and Cliff Tucker were not playing like most fans wished they would. Sean Mosley will probably start at small forward, which would leave Maryland with a solid group of guards and forwards (Palsson, Faust, Mychal Parker, and Gibbs) available off the bench.
There's little question that the strength of the Terps without Jordan Williams would be the backcourt duo of Stoglin and Howard, along with the development of those four youngsters listed above. If Williams does end up being in the mix, then the Terps will unquestionably be more talented and much better off than the ugly alternative.
In the end, the decision to turn pro is up to Jordan Williams. He gets the final word. But I'd be lying if I said I wanted him to test the waters and leave Maryland for good. It's been a lot of fun watching his game steadily improve, and after seeing how much he matured this season, it would be a real shame not to have that opportunity for, at the very least, one more season.