By Michael Cohen, Tribune Newspapers
5:22 PM EDT, June 21, 2011
Potential setbacks lined the shelves of Albertsons grocery store. Cookies and ice cream tempted Jordan Williams from the shelves of the Las Vegas supermarket.
Williams, a 6-foot-8, 261-pound soon-to-be professional basketball player, was in the midst of overhauling his diet — and saying goodbye to his college cravings wasn't easy.
For his first two weeks in Las Vegas, where he was preparing for the NBA draft, the former Terp was chaperoned by a trainer from the Impact Basketball Academy on every trip to Albertsons.
"I had to go with someone and make sure I picked out the right things to eat," Williams said. "I hated it, because he used to tell me to pick out the worst stuff. I'm sitting there walking by the cookies and the ice cream. It was tough, man."
Williams arrived at Impact Basketball, one of the premier training facilities for pro basketball players and prospects, in mid-April. Since then, the dietary changes combined with hundreds of intense workouts in an individualized program created to prepare Williams for the draft Thursday.
For Williams, the focus was twofold: lose weight and learn to play power forward.
"The first thing he did was get in great shape and essentially transform his body, losing roughly 18 pounds [from his original 261]," said Andrew Moore, the program coordinator and director of player development for Impact Basketball. "And he really lost a lot of body fat and put on strength."
The decision to enter the NBA draft comes on the heels of two seasons at Maryland and four years at Torrington (Conn.) High , where he put up impressive numbers as a center.
Williams left Maryland after a sophomore season in which he was a first-team All-Atlantic Coast Conference selection, averaging 16.9 points and 11.8 rebounds.
At Torrington, Williams averaged nearly 36 points as a senior and was named the Gatorade state player of the year. He was seventh on Connecticut's all-time scoring list at the conclusion of his high school career.
But in preparation for the NBA, Williams was presented with a new hurdle. The decision was made that he would switch positions from a bruising center to a more trimmed-down power forward. Most mock drafts list Williams as a second-round pick.
"He's dominated the paint for his whole career," said Tony Turina, Williams' coach at Torrington High. "Now, in a matter of two months, he's switching to another position. So it's going to be a big adjustment for him."
Williams worked out for nearly five hours a day at Impact Basketball. Ball-handling, conditioning and ball screens in the morning. Weightlifting and plyometrics next. A break for lunch. Then shooting in the afternoon.
Lots of shooting. Williams estimates he took between 600 and 800 shots every day.
"He was shooting it great out to 20 feet," Moore said. "College 3-pointers are no problem for him."
This coming from a player who made roughly five shots from outside of 10 feet in his entire high school career, Turina said.
"If he has the 15-foot to 17-foot jump shot down pat, then he can definitely make an impact in the NBA and have a spot on somebody's team," said Anthony Ireland, a childhood friend of Williams and a point guard at Loyola Marymount.
Sporting a new offensive repertoire with a redesigned 247-pound physique, Williams has spent the past few weeks working out for NBA teams.
The Kings, Cavaliers, Pacers, Nuggets, Knicks, Wizards, 76ers, Nets, Bobcats, Rockets, Pistons, Thunder, Heat and Trail Blazers are the ones he can remember. The workouts and arenas blend together amid a dizzying flight schedule.
So far, the feedback has been positive, Williams said. Scouts have been pleasantly surprised with his increased mobility and his ability to step out and knock down jump shots.
"I knew I was going to be a power forward," Williams said. "I changed my body for that reason, and I think teams understood that. I think a lot of teams didn't expect me to be able to shoot how I shoot now. And that's been the plan the whole time."
When the draft is over, and after months of strict dieting, it's time for a reward: a Big Mac.
"That might be the first thing I get that night," Williams said. "I might have to find a 24-hour drive thru and get one."
2011 NBA Draft
When: Thursday, 7:30
Rounds: 1 and 2
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