Jordan regrouping after eventful first year at St. John's

Rysheed Jordan averaged 14.6 points in his last seven games with St. John's.
Rysheed Jordan averaged 14.6 points in his last seven games with St. John's. (Getty)
Posted: July 10, 2014

The two men sitting behind the ticket table at last month's All City Classic did not bat an eye when Rysheed Jordan breezed past.

They knew about Jordan, one of the nation's top recruits coming out of Vaux High School last year. Jordan had changed his Twitter name to "Prince of North Philly" after committing to St. John's in March 2013.

Celebrities and princes forgo $10 admission prices. Jordan, who spoke last month about his freshman season for the first time in an interview with The Inquirer, paid his fee by coaching the final game in a series of three high school all-star contests.

Jordan went straight toward an adjacent basketball court where preteens were shooting baskets while the 20th annual series of all-star games rolled along on Girard College's main floor. The children also knew "Sheed", who is spending his summer in North Philly after finishing his first year of college last month.

Jordan grabbed a rebound, dribbled to the three-point line and casually tossed a fadeaway shot. Swish. After a tumultuous first year away at college, The Prince was back on his throne.

"This is me," said Jordan. "I'm giving back to the kids, just like people did to me when I was younger. Showing love, that's it."

The 6-foot-4 point guard led Vaux to a PIAA Class A title before the school was closed because of school district budget cuts.

His high school career ended like a dream. His college tenure started like a nightmare. In the span of seven months, Jordan endured the death of one of his childhood friends in a police shooting, a double homicide that claimed his aunt, his mother's hospitalization, and a brief early season suspension.

St. John's coach Steve Lavin blocked him from speaking to the media throughout the season. Lavin said he wanted the freshman to focus on school and basketball.

Jordan was in France with the Red Storm on a preseason tour when he was alerted that one of his best friends, Aaron McDaniels, was shot and killed by a police officer in a North Philadelphia car chase. Jordan's new teammates stayed up late in their Paris hotel to help him cope.

Two months later, Jordan was named the Big East's preseason rookie of the year and started the Red Storm's season opener. But with success again came disorder. Jordan was suspended in November after the season's third game for a violation of team rules. Jordan and St. John's declined to be more specific.

Jordan missed one game and returned to the starting lineup in early December. Two weeks later he had to return to Philadelphia because his mother, Amina Robinson, was hospitalized. Jordan spent two days with his mother and missed another game.

By February, he was playing his best basketball of the season and St. John's was in the hunt for an NCAA tournament bid. The Red Storm visited the Wells Fargo Center to play Villanova. Jordan reserved 40 tickets for family and friends.

He started, scored 13 points and grabbed six rebounds in the three-point loss. The atmosphere was "crazy", Jordan said. This was his city's biggest venue, where he always wanted to play.

That night, he learned that his aunt, Niaja Kane, had been killed in a double homicide in North Philadelphia. Jordan stayed home to attend her funeral. He missed his third game of the season.

"I went through a lot," said Jordan. "My mom was sick here and there. I lost a best friend. I just wasn't rolling. By the end of the season, everything was evening out. I was playing good, doing what I had to do."

Kamal Yard, who coached Jordan's AAU team and is one of his key advisers, said it was a daily task to remind Jordan that "something better was coming." You can have a plan of how to deal with tragedy, Yard said, but no one really knows how to handle it.

"Listen, I was ecstatic with the way he handled it," Yard said. "He's grown and matured drastically."

Jordan averaged 14.6 points per game in his last seven games, five points per game above his season average. Jordan said he could have entered this year's NBA draft had he played his entire freshman year the way he played in the final games. Getting to the NBA is his dream, Jordan said.

"I'm in no rush," he said. "Whenever I get there, I get there. I just know that I'm going to get there someday."

Instead of preparing for the draft, Jordan is readying for his sophomore year. He spends his nights running alone at Temple University's outdoor track near his Brewerytown home. Jordan works on his ballhandling and jump shot with local trainers Ellis Gindraw and Stan Laws.

Jordan said his favorite part of college was the energy in the crowd before a game at Madison Square Garden, where St. John's plays its home games. And if Jordan has his way, that crowd will be happy to pay the admission to see North Philly's Prince for at least one more season.


 

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