A quarter century ago, after his junior year at Maryland, Walt Williams needed to make a decision. Three of the Terps' underclassmen from last season have wrestled with the same decision for weeks, if not months.
Stay in school or go pro?
Williams, who scored nearly 19 points a game as a junior in 1990-91, decided to return to College Park for his senior year despite the fact the Terps were in the midst of a three-year NCAA probation that kept them out of the NCAA tournament his last two seasons.
"After my junior year, I was projected to be a first-round pick, maybe the lower half, but I said, 'I could come for my senior year and I could be a lottery pick' and that's what it was," Williams, who was picked seventh overall by the Sacramento Kings in 1992, recalled Thursday.
Now a color analyst on the team's radio broadcasts, Williams talked about the decisions by freshman center Diamond Stone and redshirt junior forward Robert Carter to turn pro, and sophomore point guard Melo Trimble's decision to explore the NBA draft but not sign with an agent.
Williams, who played 12 seasons in the NBA, was not surprised to see Stone become Maryland's first true one-and-done after the freshman averaged 12.5 points.
Though he doesn't know what kind of immediate impact Stone will make as a 19-year old rookie, Williams likes his potential.
"Certainly he's going to have to get stronger, which is definitely going to happen when it becomes your job," Williams said of the 6-11, 255-pound Stone. "To me, for him, it's going to be able to handle situations if you're not playing as much as you think you should, those type of things. Being able to handle things mentally. He's a young kid, going into a man's world.
"But he certainly has the skill set. Being able to score with the left or right hand is incredible. I think that's why he's so attractive to teams….When he becomes a pro, that's going to grow. Ultimately he can be a person that at the pro level you run your offense through — a guy like that. But he's going to have to work. There's grown men out there. He has a tremendous upside."
Williams was also not surprised by Carter's decision to leave Maryland despite having the option to play another season in college.
"I think that the environment now in college is that if you don't leave early, you're not a good player," Williams said. "A guy who's a fifth-year senior, he has a certain pressure that if 'I'm going to play my senior year, I must not have been that good.' I think that plays into a lot of guys leaving early."
Williams said that the biggest question he has about Carter is what position he will play in the pros.
"I think he's in a situation where he's in that tweener type of build," Williams said. "Is he a power forward or a small forward? Can he guard dudes out on the wing or is he strong enough to guard guys on the block? Those are the issues that he has to answer in the off-season."
Carter averaged 12.3 points and 6.9 rebounds in his first and only season with the Terps after transferring from Georgia Tech. He showed versatlity but also inconsistency. In three NCAA tournament games, he never exceeded eight points.
From an offensive standpoint, Williams thinks the 6-8, 235-pound Carter's skill set translates well to the NBA.
"He can shoot the ball [from the outside], he has poise on the blocks [inside], he's got a lot of moves he can go to," Williams said. "The questions that we have with what position he plays, can he guard small forwards, can he guard power forwards? I would have liked to see those things answered in his senior year in college."
Williams said it was "a very smart decision" for Trimble — whose stock dropped when his shot wouldn't after he injured his hamstring midway through last season — to give himself the option of returning for his junior year.
"His season would have been totally different if he had been able to hit jump shots," Williams said of Trimble's shooting, which fell nearly 10 percentage points on 3-point shooting, to 31.1 percent. "I think that his injury hurt him early on and he tried to compensate. His shot just was different."
Williams said Trimble, who has remained in school, needs to spend the next few weeks working to find his shooting touch.
"He has to get back into his rhythm," Williams said.
If that happens, Williams thinks NBA teams will be willing to take a chance on Trimble.
"The thing he did [last season] and went to another level with was his IQ in the pick-and-roll and being more of a point guard, seeing the floor better," Williams said. "I think that's going to be something that's going to be tremendous for him because that's what the NBA is, mostly pick-and-rolls."
Williams said Trimble's lack of eye-popping athleticism puts a premium on his ability to knock down shots.
"That's the type of player he was his whole life, he made jump shots," Williams said. "If he's able to get back into that rhythm, making those jumpers like he was -his freshman year and the way he has improved in the pick-and-roll, I think he'll do well at the NBA camps. If he can hit jump shots, he'll find out he's a legit pro."