WASHINGTON, D.C. - For those who hadn't seen Jordan Williams since his Maryland Terrapins last played, the man who stepped forward in front of reporters at a pre-NBA Draft workout for the Washington Wizards on Tuesday was unrecognizable. Physically, he was almost 20 pounds lighter, having converted his wide frame into lean muscle. Verbally, he was speaking about the need to be a face-up power forward, not a post-only center. Mentally, he was distant from the area he played college ball, saying he hadn't spoken to his college coach, Gary Williams, since he left school.
In short: this was a very different Jordan Williams than the one Maryland fans knew. This difference was driven home by Williams himself when he explained why he was able to lose weight so quickly.
"In college, I didn't really eat that good. Traveling, being on the road all the time, you kind of just eat what's fastest," he said. "So I think I just took the time to eat smarter."
How "college" became past tense for Williams is the subject of much speculation. In March, most Terps fans figured he would return for his junior season. But around campus, eyebrows were raised when Williams started to miss classes, suggesting that his plan all along might have been to declare for the 2011 NBA Draft.
Williams paints a different picture. Yes, it's true that he wasn't around much in March, which he admitted in a smaller interview with Jeff Barker of the Baltimore Sun. But at the time, he had no intentions of leaving Maryland. He just wanted to go to Las Vegas to train with Impact Basketball to see just how close he was to being an NBA player. He even asked his teachers to give him an incomplete in four of his five classes, which would have allowed him to make them up over the summer and still be eligible to play his junior season.
But then, Williams says he realized he might actually be good enough to play in the league. As more pounds kept coming off, he felt better and better about his chances, and eventually decided to take the plunge and declare for the draft.
"I didn't sign with an agent, so I was going to work hard and come back to school to play at Maryland. That was my goal the whole time." Williams said. "What happened was, my confidence built up, and I felt myself making rapid changes right away. I felt it was my time to go."
"People think I just woke up one day and decided I wanted to leave," he continued. "It was really a long process to decide what I wanted to do."
Williams said he spoke with his coach, Gary Williams, extensively throughout this process and consulted with many. But once he made his final call, he was gone, admitting that he hadn't spoken to him since making up his mind.
Now, Williams is on a whirlwind tour to prove himself as an NBA player. He said this was his "eighth or ninth workout" with a team, and he still had nine more to go. (By comparison, Kawhi Leonard, who was the headliner of Tuesday's six-man group, was only conducting his second team workout). He continues to flash an improved jump shot, and said he felt good about the way he made his shots on Tuesday.
"My form has never really changed since I was 12, but I just hadn't shot the ball that much," he said. "It's just about me getting confidence and shooting the ball a lot."
On Wednesday, Williams will likely take his great workout tour to another NBA city. NBA Mock Drafts still have him all over the place. Draft Express' mock draft has him dropping all the way to the middle of the second round.
No matter what, though, Williams trudges on, an anonymous nomad prospect just trying to make the NBA. Maryland remains his alma mater, but that identity has been hidden, one workout at a time.
"It was tough to do," he said. "But I felt like sometimes, the tough decision is the right decision."