Interview: Jerome Jordan
Tulsa’s starting center shares his basketball journey.
by Pardeep Toor
The Conference USA tournament opens this week with the University of Tulsa sitting as the fifth seed and set to play No. 12 Rice on Wednesday evening. Leading the Golden Hurricanes is senior Jerome Jordan who, as a true 7-footer, snuck onto draft boards prior to this season and is currently projected as early-to-mid second round pick.
On the season, Jordan is averaging 15.1 points, 8.7 rebounds and 2.5 blocks on 55 percent shooting from the field. This year he was named to the Conference USA second-team and the all-defensive team. He also became the all-time leading shot-blocker for Tulsa and the conference with 328 career blocks.
On February 25, Jordan and his teammates traveled to Durham, North Carolina to take on Duke in their biggest non-conference game of the year. Tulsa fell, 70-52, despite Jordan’s team-leading 12 points and 8 rebounds.
I caught up with Jordan to talk about his experience playing Duke, pro prospects and basketball journey.
SLAM: How was Duke?
Jerome Jordan: It was a fun experience — big time atmosphere. Probably the closest I have ever played to that was UTEP a couple weeks before. It was a really good experience.
SLAM: How did you think you guys did against a top-five team in the country?
JJ: I think we played really well. We didn’t get key stops. I think we played pretty well offensively and defensively.
SLAM: You were born in Jamaica. When did you come over to the United States?
JJ: When I was 17 years old.
I went to a camp in Jamaica run by a foreign national player. After going there they found a school for me: Redemption Christian Academy in Troy, New York. I did a semester there but then I went back home. It wasn’t what I liked. It was a good experience but I went back home to finish the school year.
In my senior year, I went to Florida Air Academy in Melbourne, Florida, went from there to Tulsa.
SLAM: With you going back and forth from Jamaica to high schools in the states, what was the recruiting process like for you?
JJ: It was slow at first because I ended up not playing (at Florida Air Academy) because of transfer rules — they had trouble clearing me up. I went to an AAU tournament, senior showcase type ordeal and someone saw me and told coach here (in Tulsa) about me.
SLAM: When did you start playing basketball?
JJ: Organized basketball – around 16 –17 years old. I always mess with it a little bit. Soccer and track and field were my sports back then. I always liked but I didn’t pursue (basketball) till I was 16 or 17.
I grew some more and more people kept telling me that I should try to play and you never know what will happen.
SLAM: How do you like the game?
JJ: It’s been really good to me in terms of taking me different places and providing me an education
SLAM: Do you see starting the game late as a positive for your career?
JJ: Yes and no. No because you could learn a lot just seeing different things. You see kids growing up in basketball and they become phenomenal basketball players. Yes because it gave me a chance to get used to my body first.
SLAM: Thoughts on Tulsa’s season so far and prospects for the Conference USA tournament this week?
JJ: We’ve done okay. There’s always room for improvement. We lost a couple of games that all the guys thought we should have won. We are playing well and want to make sure we have our high now and try to win the tournament.
It’s going to be tough. Since I’ve been here, the conference has gotten better and I know we’re capable of beating every time in conference. We have played them (UTEP) pretty well. I believe in our defense and our offense capabilities. We will be alright in the tournament.
SLAM: Do you ever find yourself looking ahead to the NBA Draft?
JJ: Yeah, sometimes. I try not to think about it too much. I try to do the best I can and help my team win. If you focus on that, you try to do things you usually don’t do which could hurt you so I just go out there and try my best to do what I can for my team and finish in first.
SLAM: DraftExpress has you listed as a mid-to-early second round pick. Do you think that’s about right?
JJ: I’m just trying to finish the season strong and first rather than going to workout and try to impress key guys. Right now it’s just about finishing up the season and trying to help my team win.
SLAM: What’s your greatest strength as a ball player?
JJ: I think coach-ability and going out there and trying to learn something new every day and do what it takes to help the team win.
SLAM: Your biggest weakness?
JJ: Starting so late.
SLAM: What do you miss most about Jamaica?
JJ: Probably the weather. It’s cold in Oklahoma right now.
SLAM: How has your transition been off the court without your family?
JJ: It wasn’t that bad. Being away from them the previous two years so I’ve been pretty much by myself and with my basketball family for the last two years. They always come to visit.
SLAM: What was your favorite basketball team growing up?
JJ: The Bulls. I started watching it kind of late. My cousins would watch the Bulls and talk about Michael so probably the Bulls.
SLAM: Favorite player?
JJ: KG and Tim Duncan.
JJ: They both are different personalities and their games are distinct in terms of skills defense. I can relate to Duncan with him being from the islands. Everyone says I have a laid back demeanor like him. Garnett – he’s a fire-y type, always an aggressive player, always on the go and just being a leader out there on the floor.