Sophomore Jeff Jordan is a backup point guard for the University of Illinois. The Chicago Loyola athlete chose to accept an academic scholarship and walk on at Illinois rather than accept an athletic scholarship at a lower level school.
Bruce Weber says Jeff has earned a scholarship and deserves to be treated equally to his teammates.
"We have put him on scholarship now. We had a scholarship available, so this second semester we put Jeffrey on. I think he's proven to us he belongs. He's done a nice job of having a niche, a role.
"He can really be a pest on defense. He pushes the ball on the fast break probably as well as anyone, better than Chester and Demetri. He's just a good quality kid and good team member.
"We probably should have even done it the first semester. I hope he feels good about it. Along the way, we as a staff feel more confident when he goes in there. He can be solid for us."
He does indeed feel good about it.
"It's exciting," Jordan states. "When he told me, I wanted to just jump up in the air. It's a great opportunity. It's something I wanted to accomplish when I came here. I never thought it would happen, so it's great. A full scholarship allows me to participate in everything the rest of the team gets to do. So it's a great opportunity."
Jeff had no expectations of receiving a scholarship when he arrived on campus last year.
"When I first came here, it was just about trying to help the guys out and fit in with the team. The more I fit in, the more my goals kind of rose. It was definitely a goal for this season."
It may have been a goal, but it wasn't an expectation. No promises were ever made.
"No, it was something that just happened. I had no idea if it was gonna come, much less this. I was looking forward to maybe next year, but this is good."
Jordan admitted to feeling like an outsider on the team, but no more.
"A little bit. These guys do a good job of trying to make me feel at home, and I felt pretty comfortable. But being a walkon, you always feel some type of separation from the rest of the team. It really wasn't too bad."
Weber sees Jordan evolving into a defensive stopper along the lines of senior Chester Frazier. Jeff is trying to learn from Frazier's example.
"Chester is unbelieveable getting through screens. He sticks to his man and won't let him get anything. I've been watching him, and that's what I've been seeing in practice."
There will be three new freshman guards coming in next year, replacing three who are graduating. Jeff was reluctant to offer specifics as to his role on the team next year.
"Every year, we're kind of unsure what we're going to do with lineups and everything. I don't know how I fit in with the guards coming in. But somehow, I've been getting in there and getting good minutes and playing hard. So hopefully that role will continue to increase next year."
Jeff Jordan would have continued to give his best effort whether he earned a scholarship or not. But having that reward in hand, he is more motivated than ever before to prove he deserves it.
"When you're a walkon, you are part of the team but you don't really feel like you're a part of the team all the time. Now, it's definitely official, and it's more motivation."