On court or at home, Vaux's Rysheed Jordan is a star

Rysheed Jordan, one of the nation's top guards, will choose Temple, St. John's, or UCLA.
Rysheed Jordan, one of the nation's top guards, will choose Temple, St. John's, or UCLA. (LOU RABITO / Staff)
Posted: February 16, 2013

Rysheed Jordan was embarrassed.

The proud and confident high school basketball star covered his face with his hands as his mother, Amina Robinson, grabbed Jordan's right knee and gushed.

"He's my main man," Robinson said in her Brewerytown living room. "Everyone knows that he's my best friend. . . . He's everything rolled into one."

The Vaux High senior is the nation's top uncommitted guard, according to ESPN's ranking. And sometime in late March or early April, he will announce his decision to play college basketball at Temple, St. John's, or UCLA.

Jordan's shutdown defense and quick drives to the hoop might have won him the attention of college coaches, but that is not Robinson's source of pride.

Instead, she said, it is her son's gracious demeanor and ability to bring life to their eight-person row home in North Philadelphia.

Jordan is like one of the Cosbys, Robinson said. He's always happy.

"That's just how I am," said Jordan, 18.

He drives his younger brothers and sisters to school each morning and helps with their homework in the afternoon.

"It's true," said 10-year-old Niaeem, the oldest of his four younger brothers. Rysheed Jordan also has two younger sisters.

Jordan plans to study sports management in college and said he earns mostly B's in school. Robinson was quick to remind him of the three A's he received last marking period.

If Jordan accepts UCLA's scholarship offer, Robinson said, she will miss her oldest son so much that she will think about moving her family west.

"We have a big family, and when he comes around, everyone is so joyful and playful," Robinson said. "We would really miss that. And we've never been apart from each other."

Jordan said he feels no pressure to commit to a school, even as his peers make their decisions.

"It's no biggie," Jordan said. "I want to take my time, watch their games, and see how I fit into the style of play. Because next year, I want to be ready."

Along with driving Niaeem to elementary school each morning, Jordan allows his brother to stay around the Vaux team at practices and games.

On Tuesday, Niaeem sat at the end of the bench and laughed with Jordan's teammates as his brother led Vaux to an easy win.

"Everyone knows him," Jordan said. "He's like my right-hand man. He comes into the locker room with us and everything."

The Tuesday afternoon crowd paid the $5 admission price mostly for a chance to see Jordan, who considers himself a North Philadelphia celebrity. The bleachers filled up before the tipoff, forcing latecomers to stand in the corners.

"You know with me, whenever I have games, the whole 'hood comes to show support," Jordan said. "Wherever I go, I get respect."

In the last few summers, Jordan learned that the life of a prime recruit has its perks. He played in cities across the country - New York, Los Angeles, and Chicago among them - and at almost each stop, he received free clothes and sneakers from manufacturers.

"I'll look out my window and see kids walk by wearing Sheed's clothes," said his godfather, Rodney Veney, who went to high school with Jordan's mother. "Whenever he gets stuff for free, he just gives it away. That's how he is."

Veney, who coaches Jordan's AAU team with Kamal Yard, said Jordan was encouraging while Veney pursued a doctorate. Jordan would text-message Veney in the morning, asking whether he had finished his schoolwork and reminding him to pack his laptop before they left for AAU trips.

"Here was a kid with his own stuff to worry about, and he was focused on me," Veney said. "We've both sort of pushed each other."

Save for an occasional episode of Law & Order that he watches with his mother, Jordan tunes in to basketball almost exclusively on his living-room television.

He lines up his sneakers in a corner of the dining room and puts his feet up on the couch as he flips among a Big East Conference game, a women's game, and a taped game between small West Coast colleges.

"I can watch it all," Jordan said as he sipped on an orange drink from the well-stocked refrigerator. "That's all I like to do. Play the game and watch TV."

Jordan's siblings share two upstairs bedrooms with bunk beds, while he has his own room.

No longer does a plastic hoop cling to his closet door the way it did when he lived with his grandmother and mother on North Gratz Street.

There, Jordan's dribbling in the house shattered his mother's knickknacks. Robinson was quick to sign him up to play at the King Recreation Center at 21st Street and Cecil B. Moore Avenue.

Jordan's uncle Jason Dunham said his nephew's "first real game" came in Dunham's summer-league game at 11th and Berks Streets when Jordan was 11.

Dunham allowed Jordan to tag along, and with the game out of reach, he inserted Jordan with two minutes remaining.

"He scored about three times in those last two minutes," said Dunham, 33. "The whole crowd was going nuts."

Robinson hangs Jordan's MVP plaques above the couch on the living-room wall and places his championship trophies throughout the first floor.

Niaeem said he does not mind looking at all of his brother's accolades.

On Tuesday, Jordan picked up another award when he was honored at halftime on senior day and presented his mother with a rose.

"It all starts with her," Veney said, pointing to Robinson in the Vaux stands. "None of this is possible without her."

Contact Matt Breen at mbreen@phillynews.com. Follow on Twitter @matt_breen.

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