BabyLinkstigator Tommy Dee got a chance to sit down and talk to Marist’s point guard Jared Jordan and offered it to Undeclared, so we couldn’t turn it down. The kid is averaging 18.6, 6.2 rpg and leads the nation in assists with 8.7 and is about to lead the Red Foxes to a MAAC Championship. Check your mock drafts, even if he’s Blake Stepp II, he’s getting some NBA looks.
Tommy breaks down the gritty questions: why not transfer? How much flak do you get for being the ‘good white point guard’? Only qualm with the interview: Jared doesn’t talk about playing Iona twice a year. I guess he must have thought they were in-season charity events. — Ben
Dick Vitale calls him the most underrated playmaker in America and his game, at the MAAC level, resembles Phoenix’s Steve Nash. Certainly the comparisons to Nash in looks and skin tone are for obvious reasons, but for Marist senior point guard Jared Jordan, it’s never been about just being white. He just preferred hoop fans let his game do the talking first.
Tommy Dee had an opportunity to sit down with this year’s best player with the initials JJ, on playing for a mid-major, his team’s chances in March, how far his game has come and where he hopes to go.
Tommy Dee: We’ve been watching MAAC basketball for a while and you control the game from the point guard position as well as anyone we’ve ever seen. We’re sure you’ve heard the comparisons to a Jason Kidd, someone who dominates the ball, in a good way, whose aggressive and rebounds the ball because they know they want to have the ball in their hands on the offensive end and they know the best way to do that is to go after it and rebound. Do you agree with that assessment?
Jared Jordan: I like the Kidd comparison because what the common fan may not realize is that he can dominate a basketball game without scoring and that’s something I’ve heard people say about me and it’s nice to hear. Scoring isn’t a big deal to me. I don’t have to score. Obviously people want to compare me to Steve Nash because I’m white or whatever, but his ability to find people on the court is something I try to do. If you watch him play — the way he controls the game — I mean, I could watch him all day.
TD: In the sense that he’s such an orchestrator in terms of where each guy on his team is comfortable scoring the basketball and he thinks shot second. He tries to make sure he gets the ball to guys in the right spots. You have a bunch of guys who can score, for example Will Whittingham who is 3rd in the nation in three pointers made with 78, do you try to make sure he gets those kinds of touches?
JJ: With Will you can throw it anywhere and he can make it so he makes my job a lot easier in that sense but I’m fortunate that I have guys around me that make shots for me. Ryan Stilphen is a lock when he catches it down low, James Smith at 7’0 can shoot as well as any big man, so knowing where those guys are on the floor is something we have developed over time and it’s easy now.
TD: I can tell you’re a team guy giving credit to your teammates, when you watch the mid-major teams especially in your own conference like Iona last year, and what Manhattan with Luis Flores accomplished on the national level getting through to the second round a few years ago. How much confidence does that give a Marist that you can make noise if you to make it to the tournament?
JJ: We look at it as those teams you mentioned were led by seniors and they realize it’s their last go around. They set a standard for the league by competing. Manhattan won a game and Iona was in the game last year against a Final Four team in LSU in the first half. They’ve raised the bar in that sense and we’re trying to accomplish the same things.
TD: What does the team need to do to improve?
JJ: We don’t feel like we’ve played to our level yet. We get complacent and have a let down. Manhattan, when they played a lesser team they had an attitude that they would step on your throat. They beat us by 30 or 40 points. We need to get there. It’s easy to get up for the big games it’s the bottom of the league games that we need to get after.
TD: Especially in your senior season, you could lose to one of those teams and it could be all over. It’s happened before.
JJ: We can’t take anything for granted and I don’t think our senior leaders will let that happen.
TD: What’s the best part about playing at Marist?
JJ: I love it here. People ask me all the time, ‘Why didn’t you go to a bigger school?’ And I say, ‘at the time I wasn’t good enough.’ Then it was ‘if a bigger school called would you transfer?’ And I said no. Winning is fun and doing it with people you are close with makes it that much more special.
TD: Who else recruited you coming out of Connecticut?
JJ: Marist, University of Hartford, and Canisius.
TD: What have you learned most from (Marist) Coach (Matt) Brady?
JJ: That people have to respect me how to score. He taught me if I learned to score than the other things would open up around me and my teammates. Freshman year I couldn’t score. He changed my shot. Coach was a PG as well, and he allows me to have freedom, which is all a player could ask for from a coach.
TD: Is that how you jumped to that next level as a player between your sophomore and junior year?
JJ: I lost some weight. I tried to get quicker not stronger. Early on in college I thought I needed to get stronger so all I did was lift. But coach Brady taught me I didn’t need that so much as much as I needed to be quicker and that has been a huge factor for me.
TD: ESPN recently called you the most underrated playmaker in the nation. How does that feel?
JJ: I didn’t actually hear it, but it’s nice to hear. It puts recognition on Marist. Not many people know who or what Marist is about…
TD: Rik Smits, the “Dunking Dutchman.”
JJ: Ha, right, that’s the answer we always get. It’s important for the program for me to get that recognition. It’s weird to hear.
TD: Did you tape it?
JJ: Actually I missed it. I went down to the bus early and everyone on the teams saw it and told me about it
TD: Obviously it would be a dream for you to get drafted although scouts have some doubts about your strength and athleticism.
JJ: I think the athleticism is emphasized too much I think in terms of how high someone can jump, and people don’t realize how quick I am until they play against me in person. I just need to keep playing and hope that I can be in a situation to prove them wrong.
TD: Again the comparisons. Kidd and Nash don’t really jump that high either; they just control the game below the rim albeit at a higher speed.
JJ: Exactly. Nash has now and Kidd had them before, guys with athleticism that can finish for them, and with what they have (athletically) I think people take for granted how good they really are.
TD: If you could be drafted by one team who would it be?
JJ: The Suns. They are a fun team to watch.
TD: Who was your favorite team growing up?
JJ: The Bulls. I loved how Jordan played. I remember the battles with the Knicks in the 1990’s. People would keep coming at him and brought it at people every night, that’s why he was the best.
Another Jordan who holds his game to a different standard.
Marist plays in the MAAC Conference and are considered the favorites to capture the MAAC Championship which will be held at the Arena at Harbor Yards in Bridgeport, Conn. March 1-5.