Jeffrey Jordan has made a great deal of improvement in recent weeks. He seemed to come into his own at Indiana February 15. Seeing extended first half minutes, he blocked a Verdell Jones III shot and led the fast break. He hit a pullup 15 footer and was credited with an assist on a Mike Davis jumper. He seemed much more confident on the court, and his play reflected it.
Illinois coach Bruce Weber complimented him afterward.
"Demetri (McCamey) didn't feel well, and Trent (Meacham) had foul troubles. So we went with Jeff and he was very valuable. He guarded well, he blocked a shot. Then he got some confidence and hit a pull-up jumper. It's good.
"One of my weaknesses is I'm shorter with the bench than I should be. So maybe this will be a little boost of confidence for him and for the coaching staff."
Jeff said he felt confident during that game.
"I came in with a lot of confidence. Coach has always been saying just be ready, and I felt as good as I have all year. So I just stayed calm and let my defense handle most of it."
He feels even more confident now, thanks to some success and his coach's praise. He has always been confident in his defense, but the offensive improvement is helping also.
"For sure. It felt good to step in a little bit. I've been getting more confidence on offense as well. It's something else I've been working on, and I've been able to translate that to the games."
The 6'-0" point guard knows his playing time will vary game to game, so he has learned to be ready for any opportunity.
"Coach Weber goes with whoever is playing well. Sometimes that might be a long bench, and sometimes that might be a short bench. It just helps to be ready in all those situations."
Jordan is considered a possible replacement for Chester Frazier's role next season, so he has been preparing with that in mind.
"Definitely. That's something I've been trying to do this year as well. I come in when Chester needs a blow and get some defensive stops. That's definitely something I'm looking forward to next year."
It never hurts to emulate your senior leader and future coach (Frazier).
"Anytime I can watch film, I try watching it with him. He's a smart player, so it's good I've gotten a chance to do that a little this year.
"Sometimes, I'll go over to his house and watch a couple games. He hangs out with the coaches more than anybody. I'm just hanging around him and listening to what he has to say."
Weber wants to see continued improvement in Jeff prior to next season and discussed recently how he can play Frazier's role. Of course, Jordan may now need to step up more this year as well.
"I hope he can have a more established roll. He's got to continue to improve. If he wants to replace Chester, he's got to have the energy, the conditioning to be the defensive stopper.
"He does push the ball well, so he can be a nice player for us and help us. And he is intelligent. He enjoys basketball, so he can become a leader for us. Those are the things we're kind of looking at."
Jeff played his best basketball in the Big Ten Tournament last year, and he may be needed to repeat that effort this time around. But as has been true all season, Jordan realizes the team's success is dependent on everyone contributing and being resilient in the face of adversity.
"We've stayed together all year, and I think that's helped us throughout the season as times have gotten tougher. Hopefully, we can keep it up and get some more wins."