ESPN personality and University of Maryland alum Scott Van Pelt says he provided Jordan Williams with information from NBA talent scouts but did not attempt to directly influence Williams’ decision to forego his remaining years of eligibility and enter the 2011 NBA draft, which is what Williams ultimately decided.
“I had nothing to do with any decision that he made,” Van Pelt told The Washington Post Tuesday afternoon. “I didn’t inform him what to do. I didn’t tell him, ‘Here’s what I think.’ None of that.”
That contradicts what Williams had told the paper earlier in the day following a pre-draft workout with the Washington Wizards.
Williams, who reportedly met Van Pelt as a freshman when Van Pelt appeared at a Maryland practice prior to a game against Duke, said initially that the ESPN SportsCenter anchor and ESPN Radio host was “a big factor in helping me make my decision” to go pro.
“Just giving me feedback, what he thought about it. Just trying to make me make the right decision. He did a great job, and I give him a lot of credit for going out of his way. He’s a really busy guy, so for him to go out of his way to do that is unbelievable.”
Williams added of Van Pelt, “A great guy; a wonderful person. Always trying to reach his hand out and help, even when he doesn’t have to. He’s always using his knowledge and using who he knows to help me out.”
Van Pelt reportedly asked Williams to contact the paper and clarify his statements.
“It’s going around the Internet like he was my main adviser and that he was the main reason why I left,” Williams said in the follow-up interview. “That’s not the case at all. All I did was ask him to talk to the people that he knew and get some feedback from the guys he knows, and he just gave me the feedback. That’s all it was. He took it out of his time to help me out, as far as giving me feedback. It wasn’t like he was trying to convince me to go one way or the other, you know what I’m saying?”
Van Pelt further clarified, “There’s no editorializing on my part. There’s no: ‘You should go. You should stay.’ It’s just, ‘Here’s what the feedback is that you asked for,’ and that’s it. So I don’t know, he said I played a huge role? It’s his words, but his reaction to it today was that wasn’t what he meant.”
Van Pelt said he’d also appreciate it if Maryland fans didn’t hold him responsible for Williams leaving early for the NBA.
“Because I know Jordan some just from crossing paths at games, he asked, ‘Can you help me get information that gives me an idea of where I am?’â€‰” Van Pelt said. “That’s what I did, and the irony here is the feedback … was largely that he would benefit from coming back. And he decided to go, so I don’t know that the information that I relayed on to him really played any role at all in what he decided to do because he’s going to go pro.
“But that’s the extent of what happened. It’s important for me to make the distinction because I am sure Maryland fans all want to kill me because they think I told the kid to go pro. Well, I didn’t tell him anything. I didn’t tell him go. I didn’t tell him stay. I said nothing. I just passed on the information that he asked for.”
When asked how Williams could have painted a much different picture of their interaction (at least during the initial interview), Van Pelt said he had “no idea.”
“I’m not an agent,” Van Pelt said. “I benefit in no way from the decision that he makes, one way or the other. His reaction to my text today, he’s giving me the old, ‘Twisting words around.’… What he meant, I cannot tell you. He’s the one that said it, but I don’t know what role I played other than he asked for information, and I gave it unfiltered.”
Later in the interview, Van Pelt said “the only interpretation I can make is that I was helpful in sharing information and feedback. That, I would say, yeah, I did that. But the headline I read, people are sending me, like: ‘Van Pelt, what are you doing? What are you talking about? ‘You told Jordan to go pro?’ What? Never once.
“And incidentally, I would never say one word to anybody on what they should do. It’s up to any kid to make a decision.”
It’s a slippery slope when you’re “helpful in sharing information and feedback” about a person’s job prospects.