Advertisement
YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections

Valley / Ventura County Sports

Airmail Jordan

Former Cleveland High Guard Plays Around the World but Yearns for NBA

July 24, 1999|MARK GOMEZ | TIMES STAFF WRITER

In Adonis Jordan's eyes, no single country or landmark stands out. Perhaps it was Australia or the Dead Sea or his view from the Great Wall of China.

This much does stand out: He is a 27-year-old professional basketball player traveling the globe while chasing his dream of a career in the NBA.

Jordan's resume reads like a world atlas. He has played in Australia, Israel, Venezuela, South Korea, Hong Kong and Russia, visiting about 15 other countries along the way.

The 1989 graduate of Cleveland High who played for Kansas also played in the CBA and had short NBA stints with the Seattle SuperSonics, Denver Nuggets and, most recently, the Milwaukee Bucks.

"I always thought I was going to be in the NBA," said Jordan, who played in two Final Fours and the 1991 NCAA championship game. "I didn't know anything about [playing] overseas. Part of me is happy it went this way. You can't put a price on some of the places I've been or people I've met. I don't regret it.

"I could have easily played in the CBA every year, with dreams to make it in the NBA. I felt this would let me go out and see the world and enjoy life a little bit."

But his path to the NBA has been temporarily blocked.

Jordan, who recently purchased a condominium in Tarzana, sprained an ankle July 1 during a workout at Cal State Northridge. He was scheduled to try out for the Bucks' Southern California Summer Pro League team, which is playing at the Pyramid in Long Beach.

Michael Olowokandi, Paul Pierce and Antawn Jamison are among the NBA players participating in the league.

Jordan's injury forced him to miss the tryout and the chance of playing in front of NBA coaches and scouts. He will sign a contract with a team in Finland or Italy, and hope an NBA opportunity comes along next year.

"I think he's good enough to be on a team in this league," said Bob Weinhauer, general manager for the Bucks. "There's a lot of players who are good enough to be the 10th, 11th or 12th man on a roster, and sometimes it's the luck of the draw.

"I think he's got a two-year window to keep working at it. He's always in good shape and has a great attitude and he understands the game."

Jordan's contract with Milwaukee was coincidental. He was playing in Belarus last December when his team hit financial troubles, forcing his return to the U.S.

He was invited to join the Bucks as a "practice body" to help the team get ready for the strike-shortened season. His name jumped out at Coach George Karl of the Bucks, who coached Seattle when the SuperSonics drafted Jordan in 1993.

Jordan impressed coaches during workouts and earned a spot on the preseason roster. What followed was the highlight of his NBA career.

In two exhibition games against the Minnesota Timberwolves, Jordan played substantial minutes because of an injury to starting point guard Terrell Brandon. He had 14 points, nine assists and one turnover while defending Stephon Marbury.

"We kept him for the first part of the season," Weinhauer said. "He played extremely well in training camp. . . . Then we had a numbers problem. We had over 12 contracts, so we had to waive him."

The Bucks re-signed Jordan to a 10-day contract last March, but waived him three days later after signing Haywoode Workman.

Jordan's international value has risen because of his stint with the Bucks. Jordan said salaries range from $40,000 to $250,000 overseas, depending on the team and country.

International teams usually need point guards, hiking Jordan's value as a player.

"I feel pretty confident overall in my game," Jordan said. "Each year I've gotten better because I've had a chance to play. If I was in the NBA and sat on the bench, I wouldn't have been as good."

To achieve his NBA dreams, Jordan will have to overcome the stereotype that comes with being a 5-foot-11 guard.

NBA coaches and scouts traditionally steer away from smaller guards who would be asked to defend taller players.

"He's always going to have the negative of his size," said Coach Roy Williams of Kansas, whom Jordan played for. "So he'll have to overcome that. The fact that his game has continued to improve should help. . . . There's just a lot of basketball players and you have to be in the right place at the right time."

There are a handful of players under 6 feet playing in the NBA. Avery Johnson, a 5-11 point guard, helped the San Antonio Spurs win the NBA championship in June.

Jordan has dreamed about playing in the NBA since childhood, but he considered it a pipe dream until his junior year at Kansas, the season the Jayhawks lost to North Carolina in the 1992 national championship game.

Seattle drafted him with the 42nd overall pick in 1993, and Jordan attended his first NBA camp that October. The SuperSonics were deep at guard with All-Star Gary Payton and backup Nate McMillan, and Jordan did not make the roster.

Advertisement
Los Angeles Times Articles
|
|
|