Jordan's life a tall order
BY JIMMIE TRAMEL World Sports Writer
Monday, December 15, 2008
12/15/08 at 3:02 AM
Shed no tears for University of Tulsa center Jerome Jordan, but it's heck being a 7-footer.
The world — doorways, ceilings, etc. — was built for people who fit the mold. Jordan does not. Example: Ever look down on a shower head?
When Joe Average needs shoes, he zips into a store. Jordan's feet are so big that he doesn't bother shopping at shoe stores. What are the odds he would (A) find something he likes and (B) the shoe actually fits. He orders shoes from dot.coms, an option Wilt never had.
Finding clothes is easier. Jordan knows places he can go for uber-size athletic gear like hoodies, T-shirts and jeans. Still, shopping can give large dudes a complex because they get herded to the big-and-tall rack. You never, ever see signage that directs small men to a petite section.
Jordan spends a lot of time in the air, and that's not a joke about his head always being near the ozone layer. TU flies to many road games. Even for you and me, airplane accommodations are only slightly less cramped than sharing a can with Vienna Sausages. Imagine what air travel is like when your legs are taller than Paul Williams, who, of course, played Little Enos in "Smokey and the Bandit."
"It's tough sometimes to get exit rows and good seats where you can stretch out," Jordan said.
You take sleeping for granted. Jordan can't. He lived in a dorm as a freshman and had a standard-issue bed. His legs dangled off the end of the mattress.
Jordan is in an apartment-dweller now. His bed is a California King, four inches longer than king size. Question for next interview: Does he push two queen beds together during hotel stays?
Now let's talk about the most unfair aspect of being a 7-footer.
The shortest jockey is not expected to win every horse race. But the tallest basketball player is expected to be the most dominant player on any court.
Jordan said it's fair that 7-footers are judged by a different standard. Players who are 6-9 can be mediocre and nobody thinks a crime against nature has been committed. But if you are 7-foot and you are not great, then you are deemed a bust, the logic being, how can someone waste all that height?
"You get made fun of if you are not playing as a 7-footer, if you are not productive," TU coach Doug Wojcik said.
How many little guys have you heard say "if I was 7-foot, I would grab every rebound and dunk every shot." Of course, that's the same guy who says "I would never let a cop talk to me that way" and "if I was single, I would take that girl out."
Little guys talk big because they wish they were big.
Jordan does not wish to be small.
"It's a blessing just to be out there and be able to be taller than a lot of regular people," he said. "So you've just got to take the good with the bad and go out and play hard and everything will take care of itself."
The "bad" certainly can come off the court. Wojcik said people probably made fun of Jordan in high school because he couldn't walk and chew gum at the same time. But doesn't it seem natural that it would take a 7-footer longer to grow into his body? Jordan, a relative newcomer to hoops, is growing into his.
"He has got touch, man," Wojcik said. "He has got skills. He has just got to get stronger."
Jordan stamped himself as a 7-footer with game at the end of his sophomore season, when he averaged a double-double during the College Basketball Invitational last spring.
The light bulb came on. Or did it?
"That's a good question," Wojcik said.
"Is it fair to a kid who has never had any expectations on him to have a (hot streak) and then to have all this thrust upon him, which he welcomed? He has taken advantage of that, too. He likes that. But what comes with that is a responsibility. A dramatic rise could (lead to) the dramatic fall, and you need to be prepared for that."
Size-hungry NBA teams monitor Jordan's progress. They want him to blossom.
"Jerome is not David Robinson, but the only thing I can compare him to is David Robinson," said Wojcik, who played with Robinson at Navy. "Just gangly. No expectations. Wasn't recruited. But he's growing into that.
"You look at a Blake Griffin, and he was destined for that kind of success. Those reverse pivot bank shots off the glass. That's work and work and work and work. Jerome, everything is sort of new to him. He's not destined that way. He's got to work towards it."
So, Jordan will put on his work shoes — assuming he can find them in his size — and resume a quest to see if the big man on campus and the tall man on campus are one and the same.