By Jakob Engelke and Kevin Van Valkenburg, The Baltimore Sun
12:34 AM EDT, June 24, 2011
With the 36th pick in Thursday night's NBA draft, former Maryland Terrapins forward Jordan Williams' dreams became a reality. Thirteen picks later, a turbulent past year for Baltimore native Josh Selby culminated with his joining Williams among the highest ranks of professional basketball.
Williams and Selby (Lake Clifton) were selected by the New Jersey Nets and Memphis Grizzlies, respectively, in the second round of the draft at Prudential Center in Newark, N.J.
Because they weren't first-round selections, they won't earn guaranteed contracts as the NBA heads into a year of uncertainty in which the league's owners could lock out the players because of disagreements over a new collective bargaining agreement.
Selby, a 6-foot-3, 195-pound guard who played one season of basketball at Kansas, was thought of as a future lottery pick when he signed with the Jayhawks after being named by Rivals.com as the No. 1 high school player in the country. But a foot injury, an NCAA suspension for improper contact with an business associate and an uneven freshman season caused his stock to fall considerably.
Selby, however, reportedly did well in workouts and pre-draft interviews, and he'll have a potential mentor in Grizzlies forward Rudy Gay, who played at Archbishop Spalding. Former Maryland Terrapin guard Greivis Vasquez is also a member of the Grizzlies.
Neither Selby nor Williams could not be reached for comment after being selected. On Tuesday afternoon, asked via Twitter whether his decision to leave would be worth it if he were selected in the second round, Williams responded, "yea bro ... I'm livin my dream."
Williams, a 6-9, 247-pound native of Torrington, Conn., officially declared for the draft March 29 but made his move definite by hiring an agent -- Andy Miller of ASM Sports -- on May 4. He left Maryland to work out at Impact Basketball in Las Vegas just 18 days after the Terrapins' season ended in a disappointing fashion with an Atlantic Coast Conference tournament loss to Duke.
"It was very tough," Williams said of his decision after working out for the Washington Wizards on June 7. "It was hard to just get up and leave. People think I just woke up one day and said, 'I'm going to leave.' It was a long process to decide what I wanted to do. It was tough to do, but I felt like sometimes the best decision is the toughest decision."
After working out with other NBA hopefuls in Las Vegas, including Selby, Williams lost 18 pounds, switched his position from center to forward, improved his shooting and decided he was ready to leave college, take the next step and play professionally.
"That was one of my main things I wanted to do during the offseason after Maryland," Williams said. "I trimmed my body down to show I could play the four position [power forward]. I'm undersized for a five [center] in the NBA. Everyone knows that, so I just had to show them I could play the four."
As a sophomore with the Terrapins, Williams set a program record with 25 double doubles while averaging 16.9 points and 11.8 rebounds. His impressive second year in College Park earned him first-team All-ACC and honorable mention All-America honors.
With many of college basketball's top post players -- Ohio State's Jared Sullinger and North Carolina's Harrison Barnes, John Henson and Tyler Zeller, to name a few -- staying in school because of the seemingly inevitable NBA lockout, Williams was able to move up in the draft.
Williams worked out with more than a dozen teams in the weeks leading up to the draft before eventually finding a fit with the Nets.
But despite making it to the NBA, Williams said he isn't done yet.
"I've had a chip on my shoulder since I was 10 years old. People have been doubting me for a long time," Williams said. "Coming to Maryland, no one thought I would have the couple years that I had. That chip on my shoulder made me play hard and be hungry every game. I'll keep that chip on my shoulder for my entire career."
Meanwhile, while Selby has had his share of detractors, ESPN draft analyst Jay Bilas praised the Grizzlies for the pick and said he felt that Selby would have a chance to prove a lot of people wrong in the NBA.
"I don't think we saw anywhere near the Josh Selby we saw coming out of high school," Bilas said. "This is an explosive athlete who is dynamic. He's got a 42-inch vertical. He's only 6-2 or 6-3, but he's extraordinarily quick. He can really get off the floor in a hurry. He's really good with the ball. He can get to the rim and finish. He can shoot it from the perimeter. I think he's a first-round talent that fell down into the second round, and if he sticks with it, he can be a really good player in time."
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