Jeff Jordan makes name for himself despite father’s enormous shadow



By Jeff LaBelle

There are roughly as many questions circulating around Jeffrey Jordan at the Ubben Basketball Complex as there are basketballs skewing off of rims, bouncing quickly across the court and slapping unknowing reporters in the back of the leg. Or head.

The whole scene is media day at its best.

“What are your expectations for the season?” one reporter asks. A basketball ricochets past his feet.

“How can you show coaches that you’re ready to play?” asks another.

And the question that should have been asked but wasn’t, for obvious reasons:

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“Are your shoes comfortable?” And a follow-up: “Do you like my shoes?”

Okay, so all the endless questions could get tiresome. But in Jeffrey Jordan’s case, the practically famous freshman walk-on with Hall-of-Fame caliber blood has heard one question more often, by more people, than any other since his arrival on the University campus over the summer. And it’s not something predictable.

“Since I’ve been on campus, it’s definitely been ‘Was I in ‘Space Jam?'” Jordan said with a teeth-bearing smile. Space Jam was a 1996 film starring Jordan’s father, Michael, and the Looney Tunes. “And no, I wasn’t in ‘Space Jam,’ for the record.”

Jordan is no stranger to media attention, even though he didn’t play himself in a movie. The son of Chicago Bulls great Michael Jordan handles himself like a professional public speaker and has learned to trudge his way through barrage upon barrage of eager photographers and reporters. During the Illini’s preseason trip through Canada, Jordan took on the Canadian press like a veteran. On Monday, he interviewed with NBC’s “The Today Show” for a feature the famous national morning show is doing on him and his famous father.

“Jeffrey Jordan gets a lot of hype and everybody’s always asking about him,” head coach Bruce Weber said.

He added, “His name always comes up first. He creates a lot of excitement and we talked about how much hype he got when we went to Canada. … He’s got great athletic ability, jumping ability, has the ability to get in there, make contact and still be able to finish.

“At the same time, with the running, the intensity level, he’s been like a typical freshman.”

Jordan’s still a student, don’t forget. And he is still making his way during his first year on a college campus in the shadow of arguably the most famous basketball player on the planet. Jordan is off, taking his freshman licks in stride, and talks confidently, laughs often and thinks clearly – all in a matter of minutes while discussing his place on the Illinois basketball team.

While Jordan spoke, his new Illini teammates Chris Hicks and Steve Holdren looked at him, picked up basketballs and started running from center court. The two Illini basketball players took off from the free-throw line and struck the famous Air Jordan pose, one arm extended overhead with both legs spread apart. Jordan started laughing.

“We’ve all just gelled,” he said. “We’ve all pretty much come together.”

Jeffrey Jordan is a preferred walk-on to the Illinois basketball team with a legendary legacy. The Daily Illini had a chance to talk to Jeffrey Jordan one-on-one about his transition to college basketball.

DI: So, you’re here.

JJ: Yeah, and it’s been a while, seems like forever I’ve been wanting to come here. I was looking to come to Illinois regardless of basketball. I applied here and got an academic scholarship to come, so I was committed to coming here before all the basketball stuff started.

DI: How’d that come about, you going out for the team?

JJ: Well, Coach Wayne McClain called me and he was like ‘Hey, why don’t you try to come play for us and everything and be a preferred walk-on.’ I was like “All right.” I gave it a try and so far I’ve really been liking it.

DI: What has that commitment done to your schedule? Especially because you maybe weren’t expecting to devote that much time to basketball?

JJ: It’s totally different than what I thought it would be. It definitely takes up pretty much 90 percent of the free time that I have. And the other 10 percent I just, I don’t know, it’s pretty much homework and class. You just try to deal with it as much as you can and hopefully you just adjust. We’ll see how it goes. Hopefully it gets better.

DI: So, have you had any college experiences yet?

JJ: Yea, I’ve had a few. I’ve had some good college experiences. I’m not going to say it’s been all basketball and class. It’s still been fun. I’ve still been trying to have fun, as much fun as possible and still do things right.

DI: What if you don’t end up playing as much as you’d like during your first season?

JJ: It’ll still definitely giving me experience. And it’ll help my confidence. I just want to get through this first year, get it under my belt and hopefully come back a better player next year.

DI: Just looking around, seeing guys laughing with each other and joking around, is this a fun environment?

JJ: Totally. It’s so much fun, just because we have guys that light up the locker room every day. It makes it so much easier to practice and do stuff you may not want to do. So, it’s good to have those types of guys on the team.