An Ode to Jordan Williams

2/8/2010 9:43:14 PM Admittedly this has brewing for a while as anyone who has read either my tweets or my comments, but I’ve been thinking about the recent string of games that has seen Williams turn from tentative tall dude to dominant defensive force, and I feel that, despite all the acclaim he’s received, it’s not enough.

There are two things that have impressed me equally with Williams: the eye test and the stat sheet. He definitely passes the eye test, and as you watch games where future lottery picks like Ed Davis and Soloman Alabi are routinely missing five-footers with Williams draped all over them. He’s hounded them and frustrated them and rendered them vastly below their expectations. They might have had decent games, but games far worse than they’re used to.

There are some qualms about his defense, though, mainly his rebounding. While he’s leading the Terps and averaging just under 8 boards a game, which is phenomenal for a freshman who has already far exceeded everyone’s expectations, the big men he’s matching up with are raking in an extraordinary number of caroms. Davis had 16 boards, Alabi had ten rebounds last week and nine in our ACC opener, Booker had 16 and Jerai Grant had 12 in that Clemson debacle, Dwayne Collins had 10 for Miami, and so on.

However, what does that prove? Williams did his fair share of rebounding in most of these games (especially his 13-board stellar showing against Clemson. In that case there were just so many missed shots and rebounds up for grabs), he wasn’t shadowing these guys the whole game or assigned to them when the shot went up. Sometimes he was outmuscled and outworked for those balls, but sometimes he did the outmuscling. These guys really did numbers on Milbourne and Dino when they were in the game, too.

What’s the most impressive is how Williams seems to just be everywhere on defense. He’s locking down his guy one-on-one, and sometimes getting double-team help, and also stepping in front of slashers and altering their shots, stopping the pick-and-roll and blocking shots. One actual knock has been his recent propensity for picking up fouls, but I think that’s more just evening out considering how much time he spends around the basket.

Let’s move on to the stat sheet. I’m not talking about his awesome double-double against Clemson; I’m talking about all the names I listed above and their nights. Davis shot 4-10 (his season percentage is an absurd .580) and scored 10 points, while his season average is 13.9 Alabi shot 4-15 last week, Booker shot a repugnant 2-16 against Williams, and that game was Williams’ signature “how to play dominant post defense” performance. Collins shot 2-3, but just didn’t even try because he had no opportunity to shoot. He kept kicking out and trying to re-position and just failing miserably.

Why does a low field goal percentage mean the guy’s playing great defense? Well, I’m sure smart guys like you could figure it out easily, but it means that he’s being forced into really difficult shots, unable to square up properly, and just uncomfortable in general. Williams is great at making the men he’s bumping bodies with while all sweaty and breathing heavily uncomfortable. I can’t imagine why.

The most exciting part of this is how smart and experienced a defensive player of this caliber usually is. Williams is clearly a smart player with a high basketball IQ (do you ever see him looking lost on the court à la Dino Gregory or Adrian Bowie?), but he’s just a freshman, can’t drink, can’t rent a car and can’t gamble in Vegas. He’s only going to get better, which is simply terrifying because I can safely say in terms of technique and mentality alone (excusing athleticism because he’s not the most athletic guy), he’s the best defensive big man in the ACC. Already. We’ve already seen him get miles better offensively over the course of the season. The one element he’s really lacking is a reliable jumper, which might be a blessing in disguise since he can’t turn into James Gist and jack up 2-3 threes a game.

In conclusion, I love this kid. He’s already our best pure big man since Lonny Baxter, and when all is said and done he might be our best big since Joe Smith. Seriously, he can be that good. It’s going to be amazing to watch for the next three years.
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