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Monday, April 12, 2010

Memphis Tigers' Elliot Williams to enter NBA Draft

Memphis Commercial Appeal
Posted April 12, 2010 at 8:57 p.m.

University of Memphis sophomore guard Elliot Williams will announce his plans to enter the NBA Draft today, a source close to the situation told The Commercial Appeal on Monday night.

The former St. George’s standout has not chosen an agent but will hire one, thus forgoing his final two years of college eligibility.

Data Center: Scores in Tiger history. Williams, a 6-5 guard, was a former McDonald’s All-American who originally signed with Duke before transferring to the Tigers last summer due to a family illness. He was granted immediate eligibility to play for the Tigers under first-year coach Josh Pastner and led the team in scoring at 17.9 points per game. He was also named to the all-Conference USA first team.

According to the source, Williams was torn whether to leave but had been given enough information to suggest that he will be picked somewhere between 20 and 30 in the June draft. The Memphis Grizzlies own both the 25th and 29th picks, thus making them logical candidates to take Williams.

Though it was assumed that Williams would be at Memphis more than one year when he transferred from Duke, it was ultimately a successful pairing for both sides.

Williams averaged just 16.6 minutes and 4.2 points as a freshman at Duke playing a defense-first role. At Memphis, he immediately became the primary scoring option on a team that was decimated by former coach John Calipari’s departure and the loss of the 2009 recruiting class.

Williams scored 20-plus points in nine of his first 11 games for the Tigers and finished the season shooting 46 percent from the field while showing expanded range from the 3-point line (37 percent).

Though he struggled a bit down the stretch and especially in the C-USA Tournament, scoring just six points (2-for-9 field goals) in a loss to Houston, he apparently did not jeopardize his draft position in the first round.

While Williams would have certainly added experience to the Tigers’ lineup next season, his departure will not be devastating as Memphis brings in significant talent in the backcourt with two McDonald’s All-Americans (point guard Joe Jackson and wing Jelan Kendrick), a consensus top-10 recruit (shooting guard Will Barton) and local sharpshooter Chris Crawford.

The Tigers also return 6-foot-9 junior Wesley Witherspoon, who averaged 12.5 points and will probably see more minutes next season at small forward, his natural position.

What Williams’ departure means for guard Roburt Sallie is still to be determined. Had Williams come back in a crowded backcourt, Sallie almost certainly would have left Memphis a year early to pursue professional opportunities overseas. Now, there’s a possibility he could return, though the source said nothing has been determined.

In the big picture, Pastner will undoubtedly use Williams’ ascension at Memphis as a selling point to recruits, especially in the local area.

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