A walkon from Loyola Academy, Jeff Jordan saw few minutes off the bench during the regular season as a freshman backup point guard. But he proved valuable during Illinois' run in the Big Ten Tournament. That experience helped him.
"Definitely, it builds confidence. Anytime you get into a game and Coach Weber lets you stay in the game, it builds your confidence for the next game and the rest of the season."
Jordan was known primarily for his defense as a freshman, but he has been working on his weaknesses and sees his game improving.
"I think it's improved alot. Ball handling, offensive skills, shooting. They had me in the gym doing everything. Hopefully, I am turning all my weaknesses into positives now. I think it's definitely working for me."
Perhaps Jeff's biggest problem last year was shooting. His .292 shooting percentage came on only 24 shots in limited playing time. He thinks he knows why.
"Shooting is hard for anybody coming off the bench because you don't know how long you're gonna be in the game. So I think coming off the bench I was a little tentative."
Now, Jordan is developing confidence in his shot.
"It's coming along pretty good. I've been in the gym every day. Coach Weber's had me shooting threes, and that's pretty solid. Hopefully, I'll be able to build on that a little more.
"I think this year I'm used to coming off the bench and I'm more relaxed because there aren't as many expectations. So hopefully, we'll come in and do better. Knowing Coach won't remove us from the game for a missed shot will help our confidence this year."
Jeff believes the Illini team will be improved because of better chemistry.
"I think the thing that's changed this season is that guys are hanging out a lot more off the court. We're coming more together as a team. And I think we're more focused this year because of our losing record. I think on and off the floor, that's gonna help us because we saw what we did last year, and we know things need to change.
"I think just the experience overall helps. I think we mesh as a team. Hopefully, we'll be able to take it into this season and get more wins."
Outsiders opined that leadership was a problem last season as well. Jordan shares his view on that subject.
"I wouldn't say it was lacking too much. I think we did have some leaders on the team, and I think they did try their hardest to get everybody together. But at the same time, we had six new guys, so it was hard to get everybody on the same page, whether you have one leader or not. I think that's something that will be different this year."
Another difference is that Jordan may now be able to assert his own leadership potential at times.
"Definitely. I have a chance to lead this team, and hopefully I'll get the chance if Coach Weber wants me to. I'd like to be like Chester Frazier and be a coach on and off the floor. That's ultimately my goal by the time I'm a senior.
"Some guys lead by example, and some are glue guys who are good practice players who get everybody ready for practice. Either way, it is good to have a leader on the team and get everybody on the same page."
Coach Bruce Weber also sees leadership potential in Jeff.
"I think Jeffrey Jordan has an opportunity to be a leader. He's an intelligent young man, he has some common sense. I think he knows the game of basketball. If he can have some success and feel a part of it, perhaps he can emerge as a leader."
Jeff Jordan is Demetri McCamey's backup at point guard, so he will have to continue his role as a substitute. But he is much better prepared to provide valuable minutes when needed. He and McCamey may be used at the same time in certain situations.