Kansas' climb pulls guard Jordan from shadows into limelight


March 26, 1991|By Don Markus

The number of Final Fours in which the Kansas basketball team has appeared was listed incorrectly in Tuesday's editions. The correct list is:1940,1952,1953,1957,1971,1974,1986 and 1988.

The Sun regrets the errors.

For most of his first two seasons at the University of Kansas, Adonis Jordan was as nondescript as a person named Adonis and a basketball player named Jordan can be. His game wasn't flashy. His statistics weren't eye-catching. His personality was a bit understated.

Then Adonis Jordan and the Jayhawks went to Charlotte, N.C., last week and won the Southeast Regional of the National Collegiate Athletic Association basketball tournament, shocking Indiana and Arkansas in the process.


And, all of a sudden, there was more to Adonis Jordan than a great name. "If it wasn't for Adonis, I'd be checking on which tee time I had tomorrow," Kansas coach Roy Williams said the day before the Jayhawks upset the top-seeded Razorbacks, 93-81.

Instead, Kansas (26-7) will be getting ready to play North Carolina (29-5) in the semifinals of the NCAA tournament Saturday at the Hoosier Dome in Indianapolis. Top-ranked Nevada-Las Vegas (34-0), looking for its second straight championship, will meet Duke (30-7) in the other semifinal.

"This is like a dream to me, to play in the Final Four," Jordan, the team's sophomore point guard, said Saturday at the Charlotte ++ Coliseum, a freshly cut net still hanging from his neck. "I never thought I'd get this far."

Back home in Brooklyn and Yonkers, N.Y., where he lived until after his sophomore year in high school, playing ball brought status; going to school often brought ridicule from his friends.

"I was skipping classes, not studying, so my mom thought I needed a change," Jordan recalled.

After visiting a cousin in Southern California, Josephine Jordan decided to pack up the following summer and take the youngest of her three sons west. They settled in Reseda, Calif., outside Los Angeles.

"It had gotten really crazy at home," Adonis Jordan said. "I didn't want to go at first, and when I moved out there, it was tough. I had to slow down. I found myselfin the house at 5 in the afternoon. In New York, I was always hanging out. It was different."

So was Cleveland High School. The coach there, Bobby Braswell, was something of a disciplinarian who made sure his players paid as much attention to their classwork as to their teamwork. During Jordan's two years, eight players went to Division I schools.

Braswell didn't know about Jordan until he showed up in the coach's office one day. "He had some videotapes of himself and some newspaper clippings," said Braswell, now an assistant at Long Beach State. "I took the tapes home and called some of my friends to tell them I found a player."

Jordan's game blossomed in California. By his senior year, he was one of the top players in the Los Angeles area, averaging 24 points and 13 assists. He narrowed his choices to four schools: Kansas, Seton Hall, Texas-El Paso and Providence.

"I wanted to go to a college town," Jordan said.

Lawrence, Kan., seemed like a perfect place. The Jayhawks were coming off a national championship, and their coach, Larry Brown, had ties to the pros. But shortly after the 1987-88 season ended, Brown took off for the San Antonio Spurs. The day after Jordan signed, Kansas was put on probation by the NCAA.

"When I heard they were going on probation for three years, I was ready to call Seton Hall," Jordan said. "I picked up the phone, but my mom made me put it down. When I found out that they [the Jayhawks] would only be out of the tournament for my senior year [of high school], I felt a lotbetter."

In fact, of the three prominent recruits who committed orally to Kansas before the sanctions were announced, Jordan was the only one who went to Lawrence. Harold Miner, another Los Angeles guard, went to Southern Cal. Thomas Hill, a swingman from Oklahoma, chose Duke.

Jordan was aware that he would have to play a reserve role as a freshman, behind All-Big Eight point guard Kevin Pritchard. But he played enough to pass out 109 assists (with 47 turnovers) -- only the third freshman in school history to have that many -- and was named to the conference's all-freshman team.

"He's always been a very confident player," said Kansas forward Mark Randall. "When Kevin left, he just stepped up and took over."

Jordan raised his scoring average from three points as a freshman to more than 12 this season, to go along with a shade more than four assists a game. He's the team's leading free-throw shooter at more than 80 percent and was right on his season's average when he hit eight of 10 in Kansas' victory over Arkansas. Jordan scored 14 against the Razorbacks and was named to the all-regional team.

Now that he and his teammates will find themselves in the spotlight of the Final Four, someone is bound to ask him about his first name. When he was growing up, the youngsters in the neighborhood teased him about it, especially if they got wind of his middle name.

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