Hype, expectations, some form of weird hyperbole. Those are all things that can happen when a new, shiny player joins the collegiate sporting ranks. St. John’s Red Storm freshman, Rysheed Jordan, is no different from any other highly sought after recruit — he too is entering college with a lot of folks expecting more things out of him than a bank robber does a Brinks Truck.
Jordan — if you can remember back to more than yesterday — was once headed to the UCLA Bruins. Thanks to Ben Howland getting the ax, Steve Lavin being a master recruiter and some luck being heavily in play, Jordan decided that becoming a member of the Red Storm was his best option.
And you know what? No one really disagreed. I mean, who wouldn’t want the third ranked point guard in his recruiting class (as high as number 17 overall on some websites) to be on their favorite program? Even more so, with a “new” Big East Conference replacing the “old” Big East Conference, injecting some high profile players into the equation is nothing but a good thing for folks who love that conference and, really, college hoops as a whole.
There does happen to be a few roadblocks in the way before we crown him the next big thing, however. Like, you know, cracking the starting rotation. The Johnnies do have an incumbent point guard in Jamal Branch — who is no slouch or pushover. Starting over Branch is going to prove difficult. No. Getting minutes is going to be difficult because of Branch. Especially since he has experience and apparently played very well during the Red Storm’s European tour.
That’s not saying Branch is better than Jordan right now or anything. It’s just that it is a lot harder for a freshman to start when the guy who is already playing the position is solid. If Branch were horrible or the worst thing since a Christian Slater movie, well, that would be a different thing. Jordan starting over Branch isn’t a lock. It just isn’t — which will obviously make it much harder for the freshman to live up the hype. Really, I haven’t heard about a ton of heavily hyped recruits “living up to the hype” off the bench. Off the bench and living up to the hype kind of seem like two completely separate things.
There happens to be more. The fact that Jordan wasn’t really a that sought after recruit not too long ago. In fact, it wasn’t until this past season that Jordan cracked up to and passed the top-50 in most major recruiting service websites. Which means one of two things. Either he is a late bloomer and/or a guy that scouts didn’t notice until late in the game or he happened to get hot at the right AAU tournament in front of the right people and, in turn, might not be that good to begin with.
Seriously — and this is certainly not a knock on Jordan — more “top-recruits” miss than hit. If everyone scored when they landed “top-recruit x” then we wouldn’t have as many coaches being fired. We’d also have to find a way for the NBA Draft to have 20 rounds. For real, how many four and five star players can there possibly be? If you go to one of the recruiting websites it looks like hundreds each season.
If it happens to turn out that Jordan isn’t as good as the hype behind him, folks’ heads will collectively explode. We will call him a bust, a player who tricked us all, etc. Even though, even with hindsight, it is really the people who evaluated and recruited him that were the busts. Only in sports do we blame the worker for working, maximizing their potential the best they can and maybe never reaching the heights of success that other folks projected for them. But we never, ever blame the folks (coaches, recruiting services, blogs like this one) for telling everyone why the guy is going to be more awesome than one dollar beers at your local roller derby. Eh, I digress. That’s almost a completely different issue, although, it does show how hard it will be for Jordan (or any other top-recruit for that matter) to live up to the hype when the people creating it are usually wrong more often than Steve Guttenberg has been at “choosing” film roles post 1987 (and I think I am being generious with my good ole buddy, Goot).
Here is what I am trying to say in a roundabout way. Jordan is going to fail to live up to whatever expectations everyone is putting on him because they are not Jordan’s or Lavin’s expectations. They are ours — folks from the outside looking in. There is a better chance of Christina Ricci finally going on a date with me than there is at any athlete living up to a level of hype that isn’t realistic. Prime example being LeBron James — the guy everyone said had to win a ring to live up to his pre-NBA Draft hype.Then, only after winning the ring, all the people said he had to win multiple rings. After that, then it was there is no way he can win 45290345 rings.
The funny thing about hype is there is no limit to how big or insane it can get. And heavens forbid someone ever actually reaches the expectations we put out for them, we just make the hype and expectations we want from them even bigger and more insane. That’s why (especially in today’s sports obsessed world) it is nearly impossible for Rysheed Jordan to live up to the hype — and really, it’s only by default (or, really, our fault).
Luckily, St. John’s fans tend to be sensible. They rarely call for players’ heads on sticks. When they do, it is usually for a reason not correlated with expectations made from folk outside of the program. And don’t get it wrong, it will be the people from outside the program who will call Rysheed Jordan a bust, a disappointment or a letdown — not a single die-hard (unless drunkenly provoked) Johnnies fan.
Jordan has a long road ahead of him and Big Foot’s foot worth of expectations on his shoulders. A Philly point guard, ranked third at his position in his recruiting class and going to a program once known for bringing in some NBA level players at that position, are all going to make his job of living up to the hype nearly impossible. Thankfully for us, his job is to actually help the team win games and not gauge how he’s doing at filling up the fictional hype-meter.
Thanks again, offseason nonsense.
Joseph is the editor of Storm The Paint. If you are missing a soul, you can likely find it on Twitter @JosephNardone