Don't read this with resolution in mind. No one can know exactly how Jordan McLaughlin's career will unfold until it actually does. That said, this evaluation proves trickier than most because the various perspectives — national, regional and local — have yet to converge.
Still, people tend to notice winners, and McLaughlin certainly has architected more than his share of victories for Etiwanda. As a junior he led the Eagles to the CIF-SS Division IAA title, outperforming older prospects and many of those in his class that previously had received wider accolades.
He took several unofficial visits early this year, including to UCLA, San Diego State, Arizona and USC. He entered the spring absolutely red hot, and many in California expected him to blow up nationally.
But that didn't happen. McLaughlin never appeared overmatched, but he also didn't dominate or consistently imprint his stamp on the most visible games. Of course, seasoned fans understand that not every player can adjust to the loose, chaotic and sometimes selfish travel circuit style, and perhaps McLaughlin always will be the kind of competitor who requires structure. Additionally, he also labored with injury problems and didn't enjoy perfect health the past few months.
His recruitment certainly hasn't tailed off. Since the July live period he has mentioned USC (potential early September visit), UCLA, Gonzaga, San Diego State, Indiana, Kansas and UConn as being prominently involved. If anything, he has gained steam rather than lost it, perhaps serving as an indication that college coaches appreciate the finer aspects of his game even when he isn't producing big numbers.
McLaughlin is a quick, shifty driver who possesses numerous dribble moves and an open mind about how to finish in traffic. Not only does he score, he sets up teammates and understands how to pass around a help defender. He's not particularly tall (6-0) but gets the most out of his length and seems to neutralize any height disadvantage.
He has proved in high school that he understands how to create organization and command his teammates' respect. And yet, when needed, he has become the lead dog scorer. He erupted for 30 points in a playoff game this past spring and led a strong team by averaging 16 points per game.
His defense also warrants mention. He moves his quick feet laterally to contain opposing ball-handlers, and he spearheaded Etiwanda's defensive attack in a victory over Mater Dei (which would exact revenge in an elimination rematch). Once again, you see the pattern: McLaughlin appears to thrive to a far greater extent versus better people in the more competitive high school setting.
A lack of strength may have been the primary reason McLaughlin didn't enjoy a huge summer. He doesn't yet have the lower body muscle to hold his ground defensively against stronger guards, and despite a quickness edge those same opponents can utilize their own power to negate his drives. Clearly, that's an area he'll need to address immediately in college.
Meanwhile, McLaughlin also didn't shoot consistently during the travel season. He doesn't display poor form, he simply didn't convert as accurately as he'd have liked or as well as most everyone expected. That could be due to a slump or merely the byproduct of the more alien (to him) summer basketball style, as generally he seemed to lack the fire that underscored his high school junior year.
There's no disputing that McLaughlin holds high-major talent. Even if you dismiss reports, rankings and the like, enough big-time college coaches have extended offers that they've collectively made the point.
The question, then, is whether he projects as a good starting point guard or perhaps if he's a step up from that, someone who will become more forceful — as he has been for Etiwanda — at the next level.
His recruitment mostly has been viewed as a Western affair, but he'll schedule his official trips soon and we'll observe eagerly whether he makes one or more trips east of the Mississippi.