Basketball runs deep in the Jordan family, so it was no surprise that Justin Jordan has risen quickly up the ranks. The former standout player was announced this week as the new head coach on the girls side at Whitko, his first head coaching position.
“I am familiar with the community a little bit, I’ve worked with some girls over the past couple of years,” Jordan said. “I think it was a great opportunity for me to come in and help rebuild; get some of these kids going in the right direction. It just seemed like the best fit for me.”
Jordan spent last season under his father Lawrence’s lead with the Marion girls program, while himself teaching physical education at Marion Middle School.
Justin Jordan will now venture out on his own to build his career like his father, much as he had to on the basketball court as a player. While Lawrence had Hall of Fame playing careers at Muncie Southside and IPFW, Justin became an Indiana All-Star in 2009, earning a reputation for being one of the area’s best shooters, playing for Fort Wayne’s North Side High School.
After high school, Jordan found his college career taking some twists and turns, but ultimately led a successful playing career between Saint Louis, IPFW and Anderson University. When it came time to start coaching, he joined the staff at South Side under his former high school coach Mike Novell and stayed with the program working under J.J. Foster with younger brother Austin as part of the team. He spent three seasons with the South Side boys before making the move to Marion during his father’s third season running the girls program. There, Jordan was able to learn more diligently about the girls side of the game.
“[My dad] is very technical, very fundamental, does the basics. It was back to my roots for me, all of the stuff he taught me when I was coming up and all of the stuff he taught kids back in the day. Basic stuff like jump stopping – a lot of stuff kids don’t do nowadays – you have to start from scratch,” Jordan said.
Jordan has spent his summer months coaching on the AAU scene, getting more entrenched in girls basketball and also becoming one of the area’s best young up and coming coaches. He takes all of those positive expectations to Whitko where the athletic department is in an overhaul. The school recently named Marion native and former University of Kentucky player Julius Mays as their Athletic Director; Jordan and Mays played against each other in high school and developed more of a relationship at Marion.
“Throughout the years, we always kept tabs on each other but we really got close the past couple of years with he and my dad coaching together. Once he got this job, he instantly reached out to me; he was like ‘I want you to be my guy’,” Jordan said. “It was a no brainer. The last couple of years, I tiptoed around being a head coach. Now I feel like it is my time.”
Chris Benedict, one of the winningest coaches in the state, was also just named as the new Whitko boys coach.
“I am sure there are going to be some things I have questions on or I will sit in on some of his practices so I can see what he does,” Jordan said. “I am excited to get to see him work with these boys. It is going to be fun to watch and fun to learn from him as well.”
Jordan will be looked at to bring a steady presence to the Wildcat girls program. He replaces Mike Howard, who went 1-17 in his single season with Whitko. Before that, Whitko went 8-38 over two seasons with Rick Bragg at the helm. Whitko’s last winning season came in 2016-17 under Brandon Bradley with the school’s all-time leading scorer Aly Reiff leading the way; Bradley posted four winning seasons over the six he was with the school. Getting back to that level is something that intrigues Jordan as he has become accustomed to coaching on the girls side.
“I got kind of thrown into coaching girls a few years ago and have enjoyed it ever since. They listen a little better,” Jordan said with a laugh. “I’m still energetic and get into it a little more with the girls so it has always been special for me to coach them.”
Last season, Whitko’s girls averaged just 17.9 points per game while giving up 50.5 per contest. A focus for Jordan will be to bring some of the offense to Whitko from Marion that had the Giant girls putting up 53.1 points per game last season. Whitko graduated two seniors, but returns almost a full roster of players who were freshmen or sophomores a season ago including top scorers Elizabeth Miller, Morgan Howard and Kylie Fugett.
“I know I have a bunch of hard working young ladies. I really need to see how they are when I am around them and where they are at fundamentally and then go from there. I am going to teach them what I have been taught,” Jordan said.
“Trying to teach a girl how to score, especially when you get to training girls or boys…you want to instill that confidence in them. When somebody believes in you and what you can do and then they believe in it too, the rest is history. I want them to be confident, it is ok you are going to miss some shots. Be aggressive in transition, be aggressive on defense; I think that is going to be the most important part when we get things going.”
Helping that offense for Jordan will also be some takeaways from his playing days. He ended his time at North Side as the program’s second all-time leading scorer (1,398 points), helping the Redskins to SAC and SAC Tournament titles during his high school playing career and being the state’s second leading scorer (27.7 points/game) as a high school senior. He averaged 15 points per game while shooting 46 percent from the field, 43 percent from three point range and 89.3 percent from the free throw line in his single season with Anderson University.
For now, as he awaits his first days in the gym with his new Wildcat team, Jordan is happy knowing what the future can hold. After all, he is well known for having that big grin across his face and he expects the Whitko community to get to know him for that as well.
“They are going to feel a lot of energy out of me. I don’t really sugarcoat anything, I keep it straight up and that is how I have coached. This is how I was raised,” Jordan said. “I’m going to be me, I am going to be cheerful and happy as always, always keeping a smile on my face. I am in a position now where I am very excited and happy to be there.”