ORANGEBURG, S.C. (WIS) - For as long as he could remember, Jordan Simpson has been around basketball.
The Orangeburg-Wilkinson junior guard said he first held a basketball when he was just two years old and ultimately fell in love with the game.
“It started basically when my dad was coaching at North,” Jordan remembered. “I wanted to be around the team a lot. They started doing everything and I wanted to be a part of it doing all the practices. While they were practicing, I’d have a little goal out shooting the ball a little bit on the side. Going home, I used to have a goal so I’d go outside and shoot the ball a lot.”
Jordan even remembered giving football a shot, but it wasn’t for him. With his father and O-W head girls basketball coach Cedrick Simpson and his mother, Niya, by his side, Jordan worked tirelessly to improve his skills on the court. However, his journey to become the best basketball player he could be first hit a snag when he was in the fifth grade at Howard Middle School.
“We had a little league down here in Orangeburg,” Jordan said. “I think it was the second game and we were winning. I had a fast break by myself and I got knocked out of the air and I broke my left leg.”
When Jordan realized his leg was broken, he was devastated.
“It killed me,” he said. “It killed me a lot because I didn’t know what else to do while I was home laying in my bed.”
“The day that he broke his leg at Howard Middle School, it crushed me as a parent because I couldn’t take that pain away from him,” Cedrick said. “To pick him up and take him to the car and the see the doctors [work] on his leg and he’s crying, that’s your baby boy and he loves to play the game of basketball. But in the same token, you’re a parent and all you care about is making sure your child is okay.”
Jordan broke his left wrist in two different AAU games. The first time happened when he was in seventh grade and the second instance happened just last summer. Jordan also broke his right leg during a holiday basketball tournament as a freshman.
Niya has followed her son’s journey from day one as his top fan, but she sometimes struggles with blocking out the sight of him being injured while he’s in action.
“It’s a scary situation,” she said. “Every time he goes up for a layup or goes up for a dunk, it’s scary. Point blank.”
As a coach and a former player, Cedrick understands that injuries are part of the game and looked at the silver lining that came with Jordan’s injuries.
“They’re four different breaks, but the good thing about the breaks is they were early in his age,” Cedrick said. “When you’re that young, your bones are a little fragile. When you play a certain way of basketball, you’re going to get some injuries. Thank God it wasn’t anything that was career-threatening.”
While the injuries could easily be seen as setbacks and obstacles that could’ve deterred Jordan from returning to the court, it’s the furthest thing from his mind.
“My dad told me not to have flashbacks, but I had flashbacks of when I went up and got knocked out of the air,” Jordan said. “But he told me don’t think bad about stuff when you play because it’ll affect you in the long run. So I just block everything out and play. It just helps me. I just don’t think about most of that stuff when I play.”
Jordan returned as a sophomore and averaged 14 points per game to help the Bruins reach the playoffs last year. Now, he looks to help O-W build on last season and Thomas believes he can. However, to do that, Jordan will have to help lead the way for his team.
“It’s the mental aspect,” O-W head boys' varsity basketball coach Willie Thomas said. “He’s got to get that to the level of his physical ability right now and I think that’s what’s holding him back. He’s afraid to lead the team because the expectations become a bit higher for him and I don’t think he wants to let anybody down. He’s not willing to accept that challenge yet and I just spoke to him about that. If you are the guy, then you’ve got to lead. You do that by setting the example -- always going hard and getting on them when they’re not going hard. That’s pretty much what it’s going to take for him.”
As Jordan continues to work on his game, he hopes to add to the scholarship offers he’s received. So far, he has eight offers from programs including North Carolina A&T, South Carolina State, and Western Carolina, according to his father. These offers and the ones to come will give Jordan a chance to prove himself at the next level, but they also give him the opportunity to gain so much more.
“I want my baby to go to school for free,” Niya said. “Education first. That’s it. My biggest thing [for him ]is to go to school for free and, if basketball is a part of that, then that’s a plus. We always tell him education is first.”
Jordan said he works out daily to sharpen his skills and it’s his parents' hope that he’ll make the most of their investment in him.
“The best investment you’re going to have is in your kids. I’ll tell any parent that,” Cedrick said. “The best investment is in your kids because you get the return on the back end. So we invest our time. His little sister hates basketball, but she still goes to the games. My oldest son works, but he’ll drive up for that day and he’ll go back. His godfather does a lot. Everybody invests in Jordan because we believe in him.”
Jordan understands the sacrifices his family has made in order to put him in a better position. Now, he’s ready to work to reach his goals and make his family proud.
“I’m ready,” Jordan said. “I don’t really have the words to say about it, but I’m ready. It’s time. I’m ready.”