'Great environment' attracts Jordan
CHAMPAIGN — Aaron Jordan watched from the bleachers just off to the side of the Illinois bench on Saturday as the members of the Flyin’ Illini were showered with love and support from Illinois fans 25 years after their Final Four run.
Seeing that made Jordan, a 2015 guard from Plainfield East, want to be a part of the Illinois basketball family.
“That was amazing to me,” Jordan said.
Truth is, though, he had already made up his mind on accepting a scholarship offer long before Saturday. According to Rob Jordan, Aaron’s father, the youngster wanted to make his pledge to Illinois months ago.
“We’ve been holding him back and told him to let the process work itself out,” Rob Jordan said. “He just came in and said, ‘I’ve seen it all, that’s it.’ ”
On Saturday, Jordan gave John Groce his word, committing to the program minutes after the Illini put the finishing touches on a 75-55 win against Penn State at State Farm Center.
“Coach Groce was surprised,” Jordan said. “He really didn’t know I was coming down until a couple minutes before the game, and when I said I was committing he was just real excited.”
Jordan, a 6-foot-4 sharpshooter, becomes the second player in the Class of 2015 to commit to Illinois, joining Simeon forward D.J. Williams. With Williams and Jordan in the fold, the Illini have two remaining scholarships to offer in that class.
Jordan also had offers from Wisconsin, Indiana, Northwestern, Butler, Xavier, Purdue and Creighton. He and his family did extensive research on each program and institution while looking for the ideal fit.
“Early on we set some criteria. That criteria was we were looking for a school that was academically a fit, athletically a fit, and really important for us was the social piece,” Rob Jordan said.
In terms of athletics and academics, the programs vying for Jordan’s services were all comparable. What set Illinois apart from the rest was the social aspect.
“That social piece started showing its head as the thing that needed to be right because if that was wrong then the other two would be affected,” Rob Jordan said. “Illinois just checked off in all three categories, and that was the key.”
Jordan has been a regular at Illinois games this season and his face has become a familiar one to fans at State Farm Center.
“Walking around and talking to people, meeting all the people here is a great environment to be in,” he said. “The people down here are great. My relationship with the coaching staff is good and today it became even better. I can’t wait to get back down and start talking basketball with them.”
With the decision behind him, Jordan can concentrate his effort on his junior season at Plainfield East while already beginning to prepare himself for the next level.
“I’m a versatile guard who can shoot and a shooter can live in Coach Groce’s system all day,” he said. “I’m going to work on getting stronger and getting ready for college basketball.”