Scottie Bordelon is a reporter for the Hawgs Sports Network. He has a bachelor's degree in journalism from the University of Arkansas and previously covered high school sports for the Times Record in Fort Smith and the Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. He was the 2022 Arkansas Sportswriter of the Year.
Williams declares for NBA Draft, could return to Arkansas
Arkansas forward Jaylin Williams celebrates a play during an NCAA Tournament game against Gonzaga on Thursday, March 24, 2022, in San Francisco.
FAYETTEVILLE — Arkansas forward Jaylin Williams will test the NBA Draft waters this spring.
Williams, a Fort Smith native who set the single-season program record for rebounds in 2021-22, is declaring for the upcoming NBA Draft, according to a release. He will maintain his college eligibility by not hiring an agent.
Williams could withdraw from the draft by June 1 and play his junior season at Arkansas.
“I look forward to learning from the upcoming process, going through the interviews, gathering feedback and building relationships with NBA coaches and front office personnel,” Williams said in the release. “My gratitude to Coach (Eric) Musselman and the staff goes beyond words for helping me be in this position.
“I will keep all my options open and, after going through the process and talking with my family, my support group and the Arkansas coaching staff, I will make an informed decision when the appropriate time comes.”
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Not on NBA radars prior to last season, Williams is projected to be anywhere from an early-to-late second-round pick, according to top draft analysts. ESPN’s Jonathan Givony and Mike Schmitz have Williams being taken 45th overall, and Sam Vecenie of The Athletic placed him No. 35 in his mock draft April 1.
Vecenie slotted Williams at No. 58 on his top-100 big board in early March.
“What Williams does bring is tremendous toughness on both ends of the floor, a trait that will help carve a place in the NBA,” Givony wrote March 28. “Still only 19 years old, Williams expanding his shooting range, maximizing his frame and becoming an even more versatile defender on the perimeter would help solidify his standing as a draft prospect.”
Williams averaged 10.9 points on 46.1% shooting and 9.8 rebounds per game. He finished with 364 total rebounds — 308 defensive — to break Derek Hood's 23-year-old single-season program record, and became the first Razorback to average 9.8 in a season since Mike Washington in 2008-09.
The forward made his star turn as Arkansas surged in the final two-and-a-half months of the season. He averaged 6.8 points, 6.4 rebounds and 3.6 assists in the team’s first 13 games.
In the last 18 of the regular season, his numbers spiked to 13.7 points and 10.6 rebounds, and the Razorbacks went 14-4.
During Arkansas’ run to the Elite Eight of the NCAA Tournament, he averaged 14.3 points, 11.8 rebounds and 2.5 assists.
An All-SEC first-team and defensive team selection, Williams averaged 17 points and 11 rebounds in Sweet 16 and Elite Eight games against No. 1 overall seed Gonzaga and No. 2 seed Duke.
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“He has so many of the skills that NBA teams are interested in from their bigs,” Vecenie wrote. “The only issue is whether or not he’s athletic enough to do it all at the NBA level. He could stand to lean out and get into better shape. If he did that, it might add to his ability to protect the rim. Right now, Williams gets by largely with positioning and ability to take charges.”
Williams reached double figures in scoring only twice through Jan. 4. He did so in 20 of the team’s last 23 games, adding a career-high 22 points at Alabama on Feb. 12, and 19 against South Carolina, LSU and Duke.
He recorded 16 double-doubles, including seven in a row between Feb. 8 and March 2.
Defensively, Williams led Arkansas with 54 charges taken, 41 blocks and was second with 48 steals. When he was the nearest Razorbacks defender to a shot, opponents made 37.2% of two-point attempts during the regular season, including 36.4% in SEC play.
“I’m worried NBA teams would be able to just finish over the top of him at the center position because he’s only 6-10,” Vecenie added. “But there is enough value at every other facet of basketball that I’m willing to bet on Williams at some level to figure it out.”
Williams is the second Razorback on the 2021-22 roster to declare for the upcoming draft, joining JD Notae, who said Sunday he will hire an agent and forego his remaining college eligibility.
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