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Vaux star Jordan closes in on biggest decision of his career - his college

RYSHEED JORDAN, 18, has a decision to make. He is going to college 1.5 miles from home. Or 110 miles. Or 2,700 miles.

Rysheed Jordan. (Alejandro A. Alvarez/Staff Photographer)
Rysheed Jordan. (Alejandro A. Alvarez/Staff Photographer)Read more

RYSHEED JORDAN, 18, has a decision to make. He is going to college 1.5 miles from home. Or 110 miles. Or 2,700 miles.

He could walk the 10 blocks or so from his home to the Temple University campus. He could drive the 2 1/2 hours to St. John's in Queens, N.Y. Or he could fly cross country to UCLA.

He could play home games at the Liacouras Center, Madison Square Garden or Pauley Pavilion.

Whatever the decision among his final three schools, the Roberts Vaux point guard, among the nation's top 25 seniors and its top five uncommitted players, knows it is a life-changer.

"He's the best multitasker I've ever seen," said his AAU coach, Kamal Yard. "He's got seven brothers and sisters between 3 and 17. He'll be at one corner waiting for the school bus. Then, he'll be helping with homework."

It's Jordan, his mom and all those brothers and sisters. So, it won't be easy to leave home for basketball or anything else.

"I like the style of play at Temple, how they get up and down the floor," Jordan said.

When he recently visited St. John's, they got him out of Queens and into Manhattan. What did he remember about that?

"How bright it got at night," Jordan said. "It's bright at, like, 4 o'clock in the morning. In Philly, everybody's asleep. In New York, that's when everybody first starts coming out."

Jordan is spending this weekend at UCLA. Los Angeles will not be easy to resist, either. He also likes the style of play there. He doesn't know any of the big-name recruits there now. It's not about them anyway.

The 6-3 Jordan has been on the AAU circuit long enough to have visited Las Vegas, Orlando, Dallas and Milwaukee.

The best high school player in Philadelphia thinks he will be ready to make a decision soon after he returns from the West Coast. Then, he will live with it.

"When I come back, I'm going to give a verbal commitment to one of those schools," Jordan said.

He has to score for his high school team, but is a passer at heart. Put him with the kinds of players who will be on his college team and the true point guard in him will shine through. But it does not hurt that he also happens to be an explosive athlete.

Jordan lives only steps from Vaux, which is at 23rd and Master, a few blocks north of Girard College. The afternoon before Thanksgiving, he spoke about his school, his colleges and his life, in a second-floor conference room, surrounded by his high school coach, Jamie Ross and Yard, the Philly Pride coach.

Jordan started ninth grade at Strawberry Mansion, not far from home. He finished that year at Vaux. He has been there ever since.

Like most teenagers, Jordan does not readily talk about himself. His coaches are more than happy to speak for him.

"He's a good kid," Ross said. "The thing I liked about Rysheed coaching him over the years is sometimes he tries to act like he's somebody else, but inside he's the most caring and thoughtful kid that I've been around. I've had kids in the building who needed sneakers or shorts, shirts, whatever the case may be. He's given it to them . . . When he goes to those camps, they give those kids a lot of gear. He gave most of that stuff out to his friends or the kids who needed it."

Jordan hears what is being said about him. He knows the rankings.

"If you meet anybody and they tell you that this kid is Hollywood or he's hard to talk to, they don't really know the kid," Ross said. "A couple people came up to me this summer and said that about him, and I stopped talking to them . . . I think about all these kids like they are my sons. It was like somebody was talking about one of my sons."

Ross did not know Jordan when he came to the school. Did he, at least, know about his game?

"Nah," Ross said with a smile, "he didn't have a game before he got here."

Jordan, also smiling, did not concur with his coach's assessment of his game back then.

"I had game," Jordan assured.

It did not take long to deduce somebody special was in the gym.

Vaux is not one of the traditional Public League powers. Ross knew some more high-profile basketball schools in the city would come after his star.

"Like I told him from the first day he stepped into the building, like I tell any of my kids, if he ever wanted to leave, I'd gladly sign his papers, because there's obviously something I'm doing that he doesn't like," Ross said. "I'm not going to fuss. I'm not going fight; I'm not going to try hold you up, none of that, if he wanted to leave. But he wanted to stay."

So he did.

"I just stayed because it was my neighborhood school," Jordan said. "I knew if I stayed here, the whole neighborhood would be behind me and come to all the games. When I first came here, I just loved it. Whatever I needed help with, I'd come talk to the counselor or the coach, and they'd help me with it. I felt like I was home."

Ross figures more than 100 colleges have inquired about Jordan.

"It's been crazy," he said.

Now, it's down to three for a player his coach says "is one of the most explosive guards in the country."

Basketball comes relatively easy for Jordan at the high school level because of his athletic ability. To excel at the next level, he must do more than run by people to the rim. He must make jump shots. His coaches told him that a while back. Jordan is now taking and making a lot of jump shots.

The AAU summer circuit gave Jordan a chance to play with and against better competition. It also gave college coaches a chance to see him in that setting. That he soared up the rankings told the story of how well he performed.

"Rysheed obviously is a joy to be around," Yard said. "It's been really good watching the maturation of his game and also his confidence. He was sure of what he was locally. I kind of had to get his confidence going and explain to him that 'you can do this at a higher level.' "

He demonstrated that in the three summers Jordan played with Philly Pride. He did not know any of the big names he was playing against and, according to Yard, "he didn't really care."

Yard would explain who the big names were just before Jordan went out to play against them.

"He didn't know who he was playing against and he went out and attacked those guys," Yard said. "He's never really been big on names. He just plays. He's an old-school Philly basketball player."

Now, it's about the next school, in Philly or out, perhaps way out.

"This is the pinnacle," Yard said. "He's going to make a decision. He's going to move on. I'm just extremely proud of him that he's getting to this point where he's narrowed it down. It's kind of a little sad, too, because we've worked so closely with him. He'll be in the hands of coach [Fran] Dunphy [Temple], coach [Ben] Howland [UCLA] or Lav [St. John's coach Steve Lavin]."

Yard has had his share of the area's better players the last 13 years - Kyle Lowry, Shane Clark, Scootie Randall, Rahlir Jefferson, Ramone Moore. So he is no stranger to attention from college coaches.

"I've never had it be like it is with him," Yard said. "Obviously, it has a lot to do with his talent level and how people project him and what his potential is. It's been crazy. It's been a lot of phone calls. I've been doing this long enough to know coaches are just doing their job. They have a job where there's not much security, so they're just trying to do the best they can. I understand that."

Rutgers, Maryland and Xavier were among the schools on Jordan's list that, according to Yard, really worked it hard. In the end, it has come down to three.

"Coach Dunph has recruited the crap out of 'Sheed," Yard said. "He's been everywhere he needed to be. He's done everything he needed to do. His etiquette was phenomenal."

Once Jordan decides, it will then become about how he does.

"I'm really anxious to see how he fares," Ross said. "I'm anticipating him doing well, but I want to see it . . . All the work we've done in the gym and all the work he's put in on his own, I'm kind of ready to see that pay off."

After the decision, there is a final high school season to play. Vaux will play a four-game pre-Christmas tournament in South Carolina. And try to make a run in the Pub.

December will quickly yield to March, and June to August. Rysheed Jordan will find himself on a college campus with November games not all that far away.