The former Whitney Young star is enjoying life as a University of Central Florida freshman. He’s gone from playing basketball in the same cold-weather city that his famous father, Michael, used to reign over, to being a hotshot recruit in the shadow of sunny Disney World.
I sat down with the younger Jordan recently, and we discussed a number of different topics, including what his adjustment to college has been like, how much he misses home and his dad’s Hall of Fame speech.
You could have gone to a lot of different schools, especially after what you did at States last year; why come to UCF?
Marcus Jordan: I really put UCF off, well, I put all my recruitment off until the end of my senior season. After we won the championship, I really sat down and just looked at all my options. A.J. Rompza, he really played a big part, being one of my best friends and telling me how much they could really use me here. After I took my visit, I just felt comfortable here, and I felt I could make an impact right away. So, that was really my main thing with where I could go. And I felt that they wanted me because they recruited me for a while.
In a way, you were being loyal to them because they had been with you from the beginning.
MJ: Yeah, you could say that, in a way. Because a lot of schools that came on late, I didn’t really know if they wanted Marcus Jordan, the basketball player, or Marcus Jordan, Michael Jordan’s son.
Everybody goes through adjustments during their freshman year of college. What’s the biggest adjustment you’ve had to make, especially going from a high school star in Chicago to a college player trying to make a name for himself?
MJ: I think the whole jump from high school to college is just a big jump in itself, dealing with classes and time management. You don’t have your parents to wake you up to get to class and stuff. So I think just everything. It’s totally different, it’s a whole different atmosphere. It just takes time to get adjusted to.
How much have you talked to … [Whitney Young head coach Tyrone] Slaughter since you’ve been here?
MJ: I talk to Coach Slaughter; he actually sends me text messages every day. He has little quotes that he’ll send out to a lot of players and stuff. He sends them to me every day; me and A.J. actually get ’em. I actually saw him when he was down here in the summer for AAU Nationals. But yeah, we still keep in touch.
Do you miss the routine of being at home and being in high school at all?
MJ: Yeah, you have days where you miss being back in your hometown and seeing your family and everybody every day ’cause you get used to it. At the same time, you’re growing up and you’re becoming an adult so you want to get off and do your own thing.
Obviously, you had to deal with a lot of trash-talking in high school because of your family background. But, do you worry that might be worse in college with people trying to get in your face or stuff happening on the road?
MJ: I’m pretty sure that [there] will be days where it’s pretty bad and you get hostile environments, but I’m used to it. I’m used to being criticized everywhere I go on the basketball court, and off the basketball court. So I just take it in stride.
I was going to say, it doesn’t even seem like you’re bothered by it at this point.
MJ: Nah, I’ve had to deal with criticism since I was like 8 years old. So, being 18 now, it’s just another thing.
What has it been like for you around campus?
MJ: It’s pretty cool, actually, because a lot of people here don’t know me by face. I sit and I wait for my next class and I hear people talking about Marcus Jordan, and they don’t know that I’m sitting right there. It’s actually pretty cool just sneaking under the radar.
Do you think that will continue to happen once the season starts? Or is your cover kind of blown?
MJ: (Smiles) I honestly don’t know. Hopefully my cover’s not blown. Hopefully I can still go under the radar, because I kinda like it, just having time to myself. But I don’t know, we’ll see.
All right, the Hall of Fame speech. You were sitting right there; what did you think?
MJ: (Smiles) I thought it was a great speech. Honestly, I think a lot of people took it out of context. I actually talked to my dad after the speech. He was just trying to convey where he got his motivation from, over his career, and I think a lot of people just took it out of context and thought he was trying to punch jabs and stuff like that. I personally thought it was a funny and great speech.
I’m sure you read some of the stuff people were saying. Were you surprised at the backlash at all?
MJ: I thought it was kind of funny. People were just digging where there was nothing to be dug. That’s always gonna happen. People are gonna fish for stuff that’s not really there.
When he looked down at you guys and said: “I wouldn’t want to be you,” what was going through your mind? Were you like, “Gee, Dad, I agree, or …” What were you thinking at the time?
MJ: No … I was just thinking that he … It’s just a lot of pressure, being Michael Jordan’s son [or] Michael Jordan’s daughter. It’s tough for anyone to be in my shoes. It’s tough for me, too. I think when he said that, he was just trying to [relay] to everybody that it is pretty tough. I didn’t think he had a problem with us or anything like that. I just thought that’s what he was trying to say.
In the weeks after, do wish Bryon Russell had just shut up?
MJ: (Laughs) Honestly, he had his chance. It happened more than once, so what you gonna do? What are you gonna do?
After that speech, a lot of people said your dad was the most competitive person alive. How do you compare to him in that regard?
MJ: I think we’re both very competitive. My brother’s competitive as well, and my sister’s competitive. My mom’s competitive. We’re a whole competitive family. You could even dig out old tapes of us playing basketball — me, my brother and my dad. It used to get pretty heated because we all talked trash, but it’s all with love.
Do you talk to your brother and your dad on a daily basis and compare notes about how your experience is going compared to how their college experience was?
MJ: Definitely. I’ve talked to my dad a lot now that I’ve been in college, and I’ve talked to Jeff, too, because he’s been there. He’s done the stuff that I’ve done. There are days when you have tough times and you kind of hit a wall, and I’ll call Jeff and he’ll just say it gets easier. As the season progresses, practices become a little easier, you start figuring out how to deal with class and stuff. My dad’s been there and done that, too, so they both give me advice.
What is Jeff planning on doing now that he’s stopped playing?
MJ: I don’t know. Honestly, I don’t know.
You’re his brother. How do you not know?
MJ: (Laughs) He’s definitely focused on getting schoolwork done. And he actually had an internship at the Jordan brand, so he’s looking to take over the business, probably, so we’ll see.
Speaking of the Jordan brand, how has the adjustment been to wearing adidas stuff? [Adidas is a sponsor of UCF athletics.]
MJ: It hasn’t really been an adjustment. I wear the adidas gear that I’ve been given. And it is what it is.
But there’s no problem with that? The whole family is so recognizable with the Jordan brand. Is it just one of those things that comes with being at school?
MJ: Yeah. It’s all UCF gear — I get, I wear.
When you wear the UCF gear back at home, do people ask what that is? Where the school is?
MJ: You get little jokes here and there, but they’re just jokes. People understand that the school where I’m at, we’re sponsored by adidas. So, of course, the gear that we’re gonna get is gonna be adidas gear. I’m always gonna represent my school, no matter where I go.
While I was preparing for the interview, I read an article where you said one of the reasons you came to UCF was because there was an eight-to-one girl-to-guy ratio, have you been taking advantage of that since you’ve been here?
MJ: (Laughs) Well, that quote was actually taken out of context.
All right, so set the record straight.
MJ: In the interview, he was talking about advantages and disadvantages of coming to UCF. And he mentioned that there was a ratio of such, and I corrected him, and I told him what the ratio was. But, I’m just focused on basketball and school …
All right, but if you were gonna compare the girls from home to Florida girls, is there a comparison?
MJ: (Laughs) Um, honestly, I don’t know how to answer that question. I don’t know.
That’s probably the best answer.
MJ: Yeah. (Laughs).
So, what are you doing to kill time at school?
MJ: I’m a big PlayStation 3 fan. I play video games constantly, and NBA2K10 and NBA Live ’10 just came out, so basically that’s what I’ve been doing. Or homework. We have study-hall hours, so I get homework done. Just in my free time, sometimes I come up [to the gym] and shoot a couple extra free throws or whatever it is.
Who are some of the guys on the game that you play with? Are there one or two guys you go with on the game every time?
MJ: I play with the Lakers. So I always have to give Kobe the ball, [or] Ron Artest. I actually traded Derek Fisher and some other players for Stephen Curry. So, Stephen Curry runs my point guard. Stephen Curry gets a couple shots here and there, too.
Obviously, you’ve got friends from Chicago who are on the team. Do you guys ever go, Man, being in Orlando is a lot different than where we were at before?
MJ: (Laughs) Yeah, I always talk to my friends and family back home, and my brother hasn’t actually visited me yet, but I told him he’s got to come out here ’cause it’s totally different. It’s really hot and humid, and actually, back home it’s about to snow. It’s different.
I read that you’re going to be a hospitality management major. What do you want to do with the degree down the line? Why did you pick that major?
MJ: Probably in the future, I would like to own a couple nightclubs. I think that’s a good business to go into. People are always gonna want to have fun, so why not open up a club that everybody can come to?
Have you picked out a name for the club yet?
MJ: Nah, I haven’t picked out a name yet. (Laughs)
Have you picked up a nickname since you’ve been at school?
MJ: Not that I know of, nah. Coaches actually call all our players by initials, so we have like AJ — AJ [Rompza]. Taylor Young we call TY. I guess my nickname would be MJ.
Any problem with that at all?
MJ: (Smiles) Nah, it’s my initials, too, so there’s no problem.
Every freshman I know has been asked this question when they start school: Ten years from now, what do you think you’ll be doing?
MJ: Wow, that’s a tough question. Hopefully, I’m in the NBA, but if not, hopefully I take my hospitality management degree and have my chain of nightclubs and whatever it is I’m doing.
We’ll get out of here on this one: When your dad shows up here, do you think that will be any different than when he we came to all your high school games at home?
MJ: Nah, I don’t think it will be any different. There’s always commotion wherever my dad goes, and he actually came and visited maybe a week and a half ago, two weeks ago. And we actually sat down at a restaurant on campus called Tailgaters, and we sat down and ate dinner, and it wasn’t that big of a deal. I’m sure the first couple times he comes on campus people are gonna cause a big scene and take pictures, but they’ll get adjusted to it.
You’re just going to laugh at all the hoopla?
MJ: Yeah, I’m used to it. He’s used to it, too, so we all crack jokes about it.
Source: ESPN Chicago, written by Nick Friedell, October 14, 2009, 4:54 PM; original story can be found here.