The legend of Jared Jordan (cont.)
Posted: Friday May 25, 2007 2:16PM; Updated: Friday May 25, 2007 9:36PM
In January I drove over to see a few Marist games, the first time I'd watched Jared in four years. It was instantly clear he had become his team's indispensable player -- for most of the season he led it in scoring, assists, and rebounds, often playing the entire 40 minutes -- and whenever Marist got in trouble, coach Matt Brady resorted to an offensive set I'd heard him describe as follows: "Keep the ball in Jared's hands, leave the floor open, and let Jared go nuts."
Against arch-rival Siena, the team frittered away a lead and let the game go into overtime. Time for Jared-Goes-Nuts. Wham! A scoop layup in the lane. Bam! A drive and baseline fadeaway. Pow! A long-bomb pass, Tom Brady-style, to a teammate racing down the court. When the dust settled, Jared had 24 points and a triple-double, and Marist won by nine. Three days later he did it again against Niagara, exploding for 17 points in five minutes as Marist won its second OT game in a row.
"When it was time to be great, he was great," commented Niagara coach Joe Mihalich after the game. "He mesmerizes everybody in the building."
It's a funny thing, the sweet vindication you feel when the big world finally starts paying attention to the kid on your block, the one you've been raving about for years. Suddenly, people who mattered were marveling at the same things we had marveled at in Jared all along: the supreme basketball smarts, the uncanny court vision. "Great point guards see all other nine players on the court," Fraschilla told me, amplifying the comparison with Stockton. "Jordan sees the game in slow motion. It's a rare ability. And he plays basketball like it's chess -- always two or three moves ahead. You can't coach that IQ."
One winter day I stopped by at the Jordans' big brick house on North Beacon Street and found Jared home on a visit. I asked him what he made of all the media speculation about his future, the comparisons with Stockton and Nash. He grinned. "Ever since I was little, I knew basketball was something I wanted to keep doing," he said. "And now, having the opportunity to get paid to play? It's crazy, everything that's happening."
An Internet junkie, he was obsessively reading basketball blogs, and his NBA hopes were revved pretty high, he admitted. He felt confident he could make it. "I'd have to be put in the right situation. It would have to be a West Coast team, that style of play -- fluid, up and down, and not the East Coast style, which is more banging." He wondered about the NBA lifestyle, he said, whether it would be lonely, how he would fit in. He sighed.
"Sometimes I just wish I knew where I'll be one year from now," he said.
He also knew that some basketball people were skeptical about his NBA prospects. ("Enjoy your collegiate career," one columnist for Sportingnews.com had written sarcastically.) He shrugged it off. "It's always been like that," he told me. "Everywhere I've gone, I've had to prove people wrong. I take a lot of pride in it."
There's a story to how he learned to prove himself. When Jared was in fourth grade his parents, tired of life in the suburbs -- Mike's a lawyer at GE Capital, Sarah runs a funeral home -- moved the family into Hartford. Jared switched from an all-white suburban school to a city grade school, where he says he was so nervous, he didn't speak a word for the first month. As for basketball, his suburban game quickly got retooled on the city hardcourts. His grade school coach, Gerry Toney, began taking him to pickup games in the city's toughest neighborhoods. Mike Jordan still shakes his head, remembering.
"Some of those courts, we'd go in on a Saturday or Sunday morning, and they'd have to clean up the broken glass from whatever went on there the night before."
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