SEVENTH ANNUAL TRIBUNE/STAR-NEWS ALL-STAR CLASSIC
Saturday, April 24, Damien High School
Girls game: 4 p.m.
Boys game: 6 p.m.
Boys Star-News leads series, 5-1
Girls: Star-News leads series, 4-2
By Miguel A. Melendez, Staff Writer
What makes St. Francis High School’s Tommy Jordan a respected athlete goes beyond points and assists.
It’s his work ethic and relentless effort to be a better teammate that separates him from the rest. Whether that means practicing late into the night shooting 500 free throws or dissecting film and watching games every chance he gets, Jordan doesn’t let a minute pass him by without playing or thinking about basketball.
It was a tough year for the Knights (12-16, 4-10), who finished sixth in the tough, eight-team Mission League. Still, St. Francis earned an at-large berth in the CIF-Southern Section Division 4AA playoffs, where the Knights beat Gabrielino, 74-66, in the first round and gave Bishop Amat a good challenge before losing, 77-61.
Despite playing for a sub-.500 team his senior year, Jordan’s hard work paid off, and many noticed: He was selected first-team All-Mission League and first- team All-CIF.
He’ll get a chance to showcase his skills once again when he takes part in Saturday’s Tribune/Star-News All-Star Basketball Classic at Damien High School.
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Jordan comes from a long line of basketball junkies. His father, John, coached the St. Francis varsity basketball team for 21 seasons – Jordan played for his dad his sophomore year. John played at Muir, where he averaged 14 points. His brother, Matt, also played at Muir, where in 1975 he was a McDonald’s All-American nominee.
“John Jordan is as knowledgeable a basketball coach you will ever find,” St. Francis co-head coach Ray O’Brien said. “With the help of his dad, who obviously taught him a lot of basketball, (Tommy Jordan) is the consummate gym rat.”
It’s true, and a badge Jordan wears with pride. While others hung out with friends and enjoyed the start of the weekend, Jordan found himself in the gym on Friday nights after football games shooting for hours.
“There he was, lifting on his own and shooting,” O’Brien said. “And I’m not talking about practice, where he spent half the amount of time as spent in the gym.
“There’d be times after football where I’d come back into the gym at 9 p.m. and there’s Tommy shooting.”
As a freshman, Jordan stood a mere 5-foot-8, 138 pounds. He wasn’t the most intimidating figure, and he knew it, which is why he worked harder than anyone. He knew he was quick, but to earn his teammates’ respect he had to show that he was more than just a running guard.
“When I saw him play freshman year when I was coaching at La Ca ada, Tommy could handle the ball good,” O’Brien said. “But if you told me his freshman year the player I saw on the court was going to be All-Mission and All-CIF, you would have been insane.”
It was a testament to Jordan, who was never far from the court with a basketball in hand. The honor student went from averaging seven points a game his freshman year to 15.7 points, 3.1 assists and 3.1 rebounds his senior season.
“I think it just speaks to how hard I’ve worked over the last four years,” said Jordan, referring to his being selected All-CIF. “I just kept working, and the coaches in my league and in our division recognized that I worked hard to improve my game.”
Jordan seemed destined to be a gym rat – he grew up going to practices and games.
“I would shoot around with the team,” Jordan recalled. “I’d be a little kid around 8 or 9 and they’d shoot around with me, and I thought that was the coolest thing in the world, because at that point those guys are so good.”
His fondest memory is of a time when he was 4, in 1995, when, Jordan said, St. Francis had two 7-footers – at least, they looked like 7-footers (the Knights had a center at 6-11 and a forward at 6-8).
“But to me they looked like giants,” Jordan said. “After games, one of them usually would pick me up and I’d dunk the ball and I’d go crazy.”
Soon enough, Jordan went from playfully shooting with dad’s team to watching games, and scouting and preparing for games.
Jordan is looking at some junior colleges, or possibly going to a prep school back East. He intends on one day playing in Europe just like his uncle Matt once did. He’d like to one day return to the area and coach. It’s what he knows, and to some degree it’s what he’s destined to do.
Based on his work ethic, Jordan just may find his footing overseas.