There is someone in the Gator athletic community that I want to introduce you all to.
You’ll be mad at me for doing this, but I’m going to introduce you to her WAY too late for you to appreciate her. You see, she just played her last home game last night at the O’Dome.
I’m also writing this without the benefit of any notes, stats, or media guides in front of me. I thought about doing the research and citing all of her accomplishments and numbers and all of the hard data on her, but decided against it. Mostly because it doesn’t matter.
The Gator I’d like to introduce you to is Jordan Jones.
She is a Senior guard on the Florida Gators Women’s Basketball team and if this is the first you’ve heard of her or haven’t had the chance to see her play, then you’ve missed out.
Now don’t get me wrong. Nobody is mistaking Jordan for Chamique Holdsclaw, Diana Taurasi, Brittney Greiner, or Maya Moore. As a matter of fact, if you’re a casual fan, you might attend a Gator game or two and leave talking about Azania Stewart, or Steffi Sorensen, or another player on the court that night. You may not realize it until later that night when you look at a stat sheet and see Jones: 14 pts, 5 rebs, 4 ast, 2 stl. Impressive filling of the stat sheet, but that’s not where Jordan shines.
What isn’t in the box score is the time she goes to the bench and will talk to a teammate about how someone is playing her, or pointing out opportunities in the defense where the Gators can make a play. Box scores don’t count the times she goes over to a teammate after they miss a free throw or open shot and says, “Good shot. We’re gonna get you the ball again”. Box scores don’t count when she takes a charge (usually). And never in the history of statistics, have I seen a box score accurately reflect a players character and heart.
I know… I’m gushing on and on about Jordan. But trust me, this isn’t like my “thing” when it comes to Kelsey Bruder, the entire Gator Nation’s “thing” with Tim Tebow, or Shawn Kopelakis’ “thing” with Heather Mitts. All three of those athletes are extremely impressive in what they’ve done, but Jordan is different.
You see… Jordan is missing something those others I mentioned. Jordan isn’t going to win a Heisman trophy. She’s probably not going to be on an Olympic team and she’s not played in the College World Series or been SEC Player of the Year. To understand Jordan, you need a little context.
Florida Women’s basketball is in the midst of their most consistent stretch of success that it has had. They are preparing to enter post-season play for the 5th consecutive year (2 NCAA tourney, 2 NIT). At the University of Florida, where so many of the athletic programs are experiencing great success, and very recently, the big money – high profile sports (Basketball, Football) have dominated headlines, someone like Jordan can fly under the radar.
On every one of our highly successful team in recent history, I can think of players or teammates that I call “the glue person”. They hold the team together, do whatever is asked of them by coaches, and make the plays needing to be made when their number is called. For context, here are some of the more recent recognizable “glue guys” in Gator sports:
– Ryan Stamper, Linebacker
– Adrian Moss, Basketball
– Tiffany DeFelice, Softball
– Both Jonathan and Daniel Pigott, OF, Baseball
– David Nelson, Wide Receiver
– Lee Humphrey, Guard
– Caroline Chesterman, Lacrosse
– Teddy Foster, Catcher
– Earl Everett, Linebacker
That’s just a sampling and I’m missing lots of people, as this isn’t a comprehensive list and I certainly wasn’t in the locker room to know who those leaders were.
Jordan Jones, in the context of sport, is one of those people. Unfortunately, the team hasn’t made a deep run into their championship tournament (yet), but I have stood by the concept that if Jordan Jones played football, we’d have been 10-3 last year (LSU, Bama, and SCar if you’re wondering… and I know you are).
More than stats, more than highlights, more than what you see on the court is the way Jordan makes me feel; About rooting for her team, about being a Gator, and about the concept of the student athlete in the first place. When the stories are dominated by the scorecards everyone is keeping about player arrests and scholarships lost due to scandal, we will never discuss Jordan who is currently having her best season while attending graduate school.
While we focus our attention on athletes who tweet crazy stuff, Jordan, who after a loss by just about ANY of our other sports, will see some of the insane things “fans” tweet at or about other players, will send out a message of sanity and let us all know that, a.) The players feel bad enough for playing poorly and it’s not about YOU, and b.) Paraphrasing: “In all kinds of weather”. I wish everyone had someone to have their back like that.
If you missed her, I’m sorry. To see someone her size (a generous 5’ 9”) go crashing to the paint to make a layup, run recklessly into that same paint to grab a rebound, and step in front of one of those bigger forwards bearing down on her to draw a charge is exciting, inspiring, and the way I want to teach my son how to play. (Yes, I said my son.)
But let’s not mistake what Jordan did best on the court… I would pay good money to watch Jordan, Lee Humphrey and Kenny Boynton compete in a three point contest. She can shoot the rock with the best of them.
So, it is a bittersweet farewell that I offer to Jordan. She will likely be a great coach someday if that’s what she chooses to do. I’m sure she’ll be a success at whatever she decides to do after this year. I, personally, have had a great time watching her play, but as someone in the Gainesville community and a part of the University of Florida, I’ve had a better time watching her be a student and student leader here.
At the end of the athletic season, BourbonMeyer will release our finalists for the “Face of Florida Sports” (this is different than our “Foley Award” which is essentially the Florida “All-Sports Heisman”). You can bet that Jordan Jones will be on that list.
So, as the ball ended up in Jordan’s hands with just under 30 seconds left last night, I wondered briefly if she would go ahead and shoot the (open) three, or whether she would feed the ball to Ndidi or Lanita for them to score on their last shot. That’s just the kind of player and person Jordan is. Team first. You could write a novel on the amount of makeable shots Jordan passed up in her three years here for the betterment of the team.
But last night, up by about 30, Jordan finally had her moment, however fleeting, she rose up, shot from the wing and nailed a three pointer. In that moment, the combined smiles from her and her teammates would have lit up the darkest of nights. Finally a moment, just for herself… Last game. Last shot. Money.
We will miss your quiet strength and stable presence in the program. Thank you Jordan for being the best you could be, all the time. And thank you for being a Gator.
Now for one more moment… go beat Tennessee at Tennessee. Go Gators!