It was 2009. I was a freshman and attending my first UCF basketball game.
Kirk Speraw was the head coach and he was subbing in, to a loud applause, Marcus Jordan. I knew Michael’s son was going to UCF, and I was stoked to watch my fellow freshman take the court and dominate with some cross-over moves and pop-up jumpers. Maybe even a one-handed jam where his body is sideways to the rim, legs slightly spread and his tongue hanging out.
He was 0-3 from the field and hit one of his two free-throw attempts.
Needless to say, I was underwhelmed. But hey, I got a C in my English class as a freshman so I guess we all need time to grow (I’m a journalism major).
By now you have probably heard the rumors of Jordan leaving UCF. You’ve heard the reasons, however vague they are — business opportunities, playing overseas, being taken off scholarship and so on. It would be nice to have Marcus for one more year, to send him off the way we sent off his best friend A.J. Rompza after last season. He’s gotten much better through the years, and though he took a backseat scoring-wise last season, with the offense running primarily through Keith Clanton and Isaiah Sykes taking some of the perimeter-scoring load, his leadership will surely be missed.
If he leaves.
He is still a member of the UCF hoops program, UCF Athletics will tell you. And even though he is not enrolled in Summer A (which is optional), UCF Athletics will also tell you he is expected to be on campus for the fall semester.
But if he does leave, it would mean more than just not seeing Papa Jordan at various home games. It would be the end of an era. I still remember when he wore those Nike kicks, back when UCF was sponsored by Adidas. Good thing for us, the Jordan family had the ins with Nike and SWOOSH! The Knights were sporting some new Nike threads. Marcus brought national attention to the basketball program, even appearing on ESPN two years ago with head coach Donnie Jones when the team was undefeated in Jones’ first season.
He had a huge game against the Gators at the Amway Center that season, and Knights couldn’t help but wonder if M.J. would one day play in NBA arenas for a career. Just last season, Marcus hit a clutch turn-around 3-pointer in front of a packed UCF Arena to clinch a win over Memphis — the first-ever win over the program.
Regardless of whether Marcus stays or seeks opportunities elsewhere, we still have those memories. If he leaves, we can think of it as an early graduation. His brother, Jeff, is no longer with the program after his short stint. Rompza graduated, though he remains in Orlando doing other things in the community (oh, A.J.). You can’t blame the guy for starting to think about his future when those close to him have already started theirs.
I’m going into my senior year — Marcus became a Knight when I did and has been the face of the program, along with A.J., ever since I attended my first game at the arena. A.J. is gone and if Marcus leaves, UCF will need to find a new face. Clanton is the immediate favorite, as is Sykes. Maybe one of the new recruits takes us all by surprise and wins our hearts. But it will take a lot to replace the claps and shouts that Marcus garnered from fans.
What this means for the basketball team is that defenses will not have to focus on stopping No. 5 anymore. They can focus more on scorers like Clanton and Sykes. The Knights would have a hole to fill on the wing and the 13.7 points Marcus averaged last season.
The Knights have a promising roster, but without Marcus, it takes a punch to the stomach. You can think of Marcus as the glue that holds the team together, someone who can run the floor and run the offense. There is a reason he missed an average of just four minutes a game last season.
But this isn’t Marcus’ first time dealing with controversy — from wearing the wrong sneakers to tweeting porn stars. Maybe we just add this to the list? I mean, the rumors originate from TerezOwens.com, not exactly the most reliable source.
But Marcus leaving seems entirely possible, even probable. He could pursue his business opportunities while also possibly playing professionally overseas. It’s just a matter of when.
For basketball and emotional reasons, I hope he returns for his senior year. But while some freshmen might watch him and say, “Psh, he’s nothing like his dad,” they should look again. He has the swagger of a Jordan, the rebellious attitude of a Jordan, the clutch blood of a Jordan and the off-the-court intrigue of a Jordan. He isn’t the transcendent basketball player his dad was but if a Jordan is anything, he is more than basketball.
That is what Marcus is. He has always been more than basketball.