Clearly, the skull session with the ever loquacious point guard had quite an impact on the steadily improving Jordan.
When Jordan struggled at the start of the season following a six-week stint on the sidelines with a knee issue, Rompza sought out the young shooting guard for a motivational chat. And because the two are former high school and AAU teammates and have been close friends for years, the conversation was admittedly frank and very much to the point, Jordan said.
“I talked to Marcus a lot because I knew there was a lot of stuff going on with him,” Rompza remembered. “I just told him to be the basketball player that he is and to attack the rim and take his shot when it was there. You see what’s happening now – he’s taking his shots, he’s driving the ball and he’s hard to guard. That’s the way he plays.
“There’s always so much stuff around him – how good is he and how he’s not like his dad,” Rompza continued. “But it’s Marcus and I wish people would just let him play and be who he is.”
Who Jordan is so far is a player who is at his best in UCF’s toughest games.
No UCF player has made more of a jump since the start of the season than Jordan, who recently moved into the starting lineup and has grown increasingly more comfortable with his new teammates. He electrified the UCF Arena crowd of 9,460 fans (the second-most in school history) on Wednesday by aggressively attacking Marshall and keeping the Knights within striking distance.
“I think a big part of it is learning what everybody can do out on the court. I just feel if we need a big boost I can provide that,” Jordan said. “I feel like I can provide a spark when we need it. It just so happens that we’ve needed that boost more on the road than here (at home).”
Jordan’s best games of the season have come against Marshall (a career-best 19 points), at Connecticut (13 points), at Ole Miss (13 points), at Notre Dame (nine points) and at South Florida (11 points). Clearly, the bespectacled freshman doesn’t fear the challenge of a big game or a tense situation in hostile territory, often taking control of the offense when needed.
UCF coach Kirk Speraw said he’s delighted with the progress that Jordan has made since having to miss almost two months in the preseason because of knee tendinitis. Speraw said Jordan has affirmed his belief that the 6-foot-3 swingman would be an aggressive defender and a willing passer who looks to make plays for others.
“I can’t express enough where he was at the beginning of practice and how far behind he was in those first two or three weeks after the injury,” Speraw said. “You can see his timing and comfort level are coming around. I think he’ll continue to get better throughout the season because he’s a hard worker.”
In addition to getting vocal support from Rompza, Jordan said he talks to his father often about his games. Michael attended the season-opening win against UMass at UCF Arena and the game at Notre Dame. And Marcus said his father often watches his games online or via clips provided by UCF. The two often discuss Marcus’ approach and ways he can improve his game.
And Speraw has been in Marcus Jordan’s ear too, imploring him to assert himself more on the court. One particular moment in a game against Jacksonville earlier showed just how dazzling Jordan can be when he’s in attack mode. He ran a pick-and-roll play to perfection, drawing two defenders to him with his drive and then flipping a no-look pass over his shoulder to P.J. Gaynor for a thunderous dunk.
“Me and coach, we’ve talked about me being more aggressive out there and that’s what I’m trying to do,” he said. “I’m just trying to provide that spark. I just want to give us that next gear and kick it into overdrive.”
Source: John Denton’s Knights Insider appears several times per week on UCFAthletics.com. E-mail John at firstname.lastname@example.org.