Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Stevie Jordan embracing challenge of being team leader for Rider

After sensational rookie season, Stevie Jordan now becomes face of Rider program as sophomore, and is ready to take on increased role in Broncs offense that goes along with it. (Photo by Vincent Simone/NYC Buckets)

Going into last season, Rider had senior leadership in the form of guard Jimmie Taylor leading the backcourt, while the trio of Kahlil Thomas, Xavier Lundy and graduate transfer Norville Carey led the charge down low. Yet for head coach Kevin Baggett, the question remained at the point guard position, where the departure of Teddy Okereafor left a gaping hole in the Broncs' offense.

Enter Stevie Jordan.

The native of the Philadelphia suburbs had a freshman season to remember, ranking among the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference leaders in assists per game and impacting Rider's performance enough to where the Broncs earned a first-round bye into the conference tournament for the third time in five seasons. In fact, Jordan likely would have been the MAAC Rookie of the Year if not for a four-game midseason suspension spurred on by a violation of team rules. Regardless, the positive vibes surrounding his first season in Lawrenceville have carried on, and he enters his sophomore campaign eager to do more for a Rider team that is much younger than last year's and in somewhat of a transition.

"I think that Stevie understands, after now having played a year in the MAAC, the maturity has to come more for him," head coach Kevin Baggett said with regard to the evolution of his burgeoning floor general into an unquestioned team leader and alpha dog. "I thought there were some times where he let his emotions get the better of him some games. All of that is a matter of growing up and understanding that you can't let those things bother you. He's got to stay true to what we're trying to get done and focus. He's part of the extension of the head coach, and I need him to be the calm guy out there getting our guys in positions, in the right places, and trying to execute what we need to do."

Jordan's contributions right out of the gate have certainly positioned him for long-term success, as his 11.7 points per game ranked third in team scoring while his 5.6 assists per game led the MAAC. By comparison, Monmouth's Justin Robinson; who also started at point guard as a freshman before blossoming into the Hawks' on-court leader and two-time MAAC Player of the Year, averaged just over seven points per game in his rookie season before nearly doubling that as a sophomore, his 13.4 points and 3.6 assists per game being good enough for first team all-conference honors as Monmouth jumped from ninth to fifth in the regular season standings. Jordan's coach believes his young charge is on the precipice of replicating such a jump, admitting that even though he is still; in essence, learning on the job, his experience from going through the wars of the conference season in a starting role as a freshman will be more of a boon to his progression than a bane.

"We've had a lot of conversations," said Baggett. "He's watched a lot of film and I think he's excited about the opportunity. But he still has to continue to get better, and that comes with experience. I think he'll be a year better, a year more experienced. I think he'll understand what we're trying to get done, and obviously I think we have more pieces around him again to be able to help him."

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