A common what-if for Maryland fans involves the 6’10″ center from Torrington, CT, Jordan Williams. The four star recruit had a solid freshman year and then a breakout sophomore season. Instead of returning to College Park for his junior year, he declared for the NBA Draft and was selected 36th overall by the New Jersey Nets.
Following Jordan’s decision to declare for the NBA Draft, long time coach Gary Williams retired. The timing of the two events made them appear as related. The common thought between fans was that Gary was waiting to see what Jordan did; when he announced his intentions to leave, Gary saw another rebuilding year and decided to leave.
Personally, I don’t agree with this idea, I think Terrence Ross had more to do with it. However, I can see why this would be a popular belief. I’ll admit that it might have played a hand in Gary’s decision, but I don’t think it was as big. But to each their own, and honestly, only Gary Williams knows the real reasons why he left College Park.
Jordan Williams got to College Park as a chubby big man who, despite the four star rating, was largely unknown. The level of competition that Williams played in high school wasn’t great, and he was the biggest player by far in his league. The 2009-2010 Terps was the ideal starting point for the freshman. With seniors Greivis Vasquez, Eric Hayes, and Landon Milbourne, along with sophomore Sean Mosley, Maryland had an established starting line-up with experience and scoring. What the team was lacking was a rebounder and a body to cover an opposing teams big man.
The expectations were low, and Jordan Williams exceeded those expectations. He was a vital part of Maryland’s run to a 13-3 ACC season and a share of the ACC Title. Without the development of Jordan Williams throughout the 2009-2010 season, Maryland probably doesn’t go 13-3 in the ACC. As a freshman Jordan Williams averages were:
24.8 Min 9.6 Pts 8.6 Reb 0.9 TO 1.0 Blk 51% FG 53% FT 31 Starts
Overall, you couldn’t ask for a better freshman season for a big man entering the ACC. The end result of 13-3 was even better as well. Jordan Williams, in theory, got to learn from three great team players who were seniors. Getting to learn from Vasquez, Hayes, and Milbourne should have helped Williams learn more about being a team player and leading a team.
As a sophomore, Jordan Williams improved greatly in all statistical areas. Despite losing the ACC Player of the Year at point guard, he was still able to improve and lead the team. However, down the stretch of games, the lack of a point guard hurt Maryland’s ability to involve Williams in close games. Maryland dropped a number of close games during the season, that, in the end, were a big reason for them missing the tournament. Regardless, he still had as great of a season as you can ask for a sophomore:
32.5 Min 16.9 Pts 11.8 Reb 1.6 TO 1.4 Blk 54% FG 58% FT
As you can see, Jordan Williams improved a lot from this freshman year to the sophomore year. Unfortunately, the team around him wasn’t anywhere near as good as the team his sophomore year: Adrian Bowie, Cliff Tucker, and Dino Gregory, along with returning starter Sean Mosley. Dino developed a mid-range baseline jumper and hustled on the glass. Sean Mosley provided his great defense, but his offense was still limited. Adrian Bowie wasn’t able to run the offense consistently, and Cliff Tucker’s offense wasn’t enough to be the second guy on the team.
Maryland finished the season 19-14 (7-9) and missed out on the NCAA Tournament. Not the season that Jordan Williams envisioned, especially after his freshman year ended in a heartbreaking second round loss. He did break the record for most consecutive double-doubles, which was held by Len Elmore.
Rumors were going around after Jordan Williams sophomore season that he wasn’t returning to Maryland. For some time nothing was going from Jordan Williams, but many believed that his girlfriend was pushing him towards going pro, others were citing his lack of attendance at classes as signs that he was definitely declaring. Regardless of what the reasons were, Jordan Williams did withdraw from Maryland and declare for the NBA Draft.
What if Jordan Williams returns to Maryland? Where does that leave Maryland for the 2011-12 and 2012-13 season? Where does Jordan Williams end up in Maryland record books?
If Jordan Williams returns to Maryland, almost certainly coach Gary Williams stays with the team as well. With Bowie, Tucker, and Gregory graduating, the starting line up for the 2011-2012 season is: 1) Pe’Shon Howard 2) Terrell Stoglin 3) Sean Mosley 4) James Padgett 5) Jordan Williams. Off the bench: Mychal Parker, Hawk Palsson, Sterling Gibbs, and Nick Faust. The scoring ability of Stoglin allows Maryland more inside/out ability, but can Howard run the offense well enough to keep getting Williams the ball? Does Padgett develop a mid range game similar to Dino to give Williams room in the post?
As good as Williams was, I don’t see this line-up being much better than the year before. Hawk coming off the bench gives Maryland the ability to stretch the floor, and Faust/Parker give Maryland more ability to drive and get to the rim. However, Faust struggled early on as a freshman with getting to the rim consistently, and Parker struggled at playing basketball as a sophomore. Hawk and Stoglin are the only players with range, meaning Maryland sees a lot of 2-3 zone, which slowed them down the yer before. The ceiling for this team is 9-7 in the ACC, and even that seems more like a stretch. Most likely the 2011-12 Terps miss the NCAA Tournament for the second straight season.
Williams senior year would see some improvements in the roster, but not to the level of what Coach Turgeon brought. Gary was about to gain a commitment from Shaq Cleare before he retired, and already had Justin Anderson on board. Seth Allen was under the radar and not receiving interest from Maryland until coach Turgeon arrived. You can wave off the late additions of Charles Mitchell and Dez Wells from the 2012-2013 Terps as well.
The starting line-up is similar to the year before, except sub Sean Mosley for Nick Faust at the small forward position. Sure, having Anderson, Parker, Pankey, and Gibbs coming off the bench would help, but does it turn Maryland into a contender? No. This squad can do better than the year before, but 10 wins in the ACC is probably the ceiling. They make the NCAA Tournament and with a scorer like Stoglin and they are capable of catching lightning in a bottle and making a run. Odds are though, they win their first game, lose the second, at most lose in the sweet sixteen.
Where does that leave Maryland? The Terps go two years without making the NCAA Tournament, and then follow it up with a second round/sweet sixteen run. They don’t finish in the top four of the ACC after winning a share of the ACC in 2009-2010. With the loss of Jordan Williams, this upcoming season of Maryland basketball would probably float around the .500 mark in conference, at most. With the impending move to the Big Ten, and the recent lack of success, the pressure would be on Gary Williams to deliver big or retire. Given his old age and the drain of constantly battling the athletic department for the better half of a decade, he would have retired after this past season.
Historically, Jordan Williams would leave behind a mixed legacy at Maryland. Sticking to his average of 336 rebounds per season and 10.18 per game, and using the scenario above of missing the tournament his junior year and making it to the sweet sixteen his senior year. Jordan Williams would have finished with 1,374 rebounds, topping Len Elmore’s 1,053 mark early in his senior year.
As great as this individual mark would be, Jordan Williams would have only made the tournament once as the leader of the team. As important as he was as a freshman, that team was still built around Vasquez, Hayes, and Milbourne. His sophomore, junior, and senior seasons would have been teams built around him as the center piece of the offense. Making the tournament once in that span wouldn’t gain him long term respect with Maryland fans. The rebound record would be great, and would have him in the conversation to have his jersey in the rafters, but with the lack of postseason success, it would be an uphill battle to get it there.