Marcus Jordan will lead a talented UCF team this year. (Icon SMI)
By Keith Levinsky
Tuesday, August 09, 2011
Last Season: 21-12 (6-10)
Key Losses: Isaac Sosa, Tom Herzog, A.J. Tyler, David Diakite
Head Coach: Donnie Jones
PG: A.J. Rompza 5-9 Sr.
SG: Marcus Jordan 6-3 Jr.
SF: Tristan Spurlock 6-8 So.
PF: Keith Clanton 6-8 Jr.
C: Michael Chandler 6-10 Fr.
Key Reserves: P.J. Gaynor 6-8 Sr. PF, Jeff Jordan 6-1 Sr. SG, Isaiah Sykes 6-5 So. SG, Dwight McCombs 6-8 Sr. PF, Josh Crittle 6-8 Jr. PF, Rod Days 6-6 Fr. SF, Wayne Martin 6-7 Fr. PF, Kasey Wilson 6-6 Fr. PF
His initials are MJ and he is related to the best basketball player ever, but his style is totally different than the NBA legend. Marcus Jordan dons goggles, has a stocky build, and does not quite have his father's jumper yet. Like his father, though, he can fly through the air on his way to the hoop and has started to post some Jordan-esque point totals. As a sophomore, Jordan led the Knights in scoring, averaging 15.2 points per game, and scored at least 20 points in eight games.
Jordan and UCF's breakout year might not have been possible without the hiring of former Marshall coach Donnie Jones. In his first year as UCF head coach, Jones revitalized the UCF basketball program and did it right from the start. The Knights began the season on a fourteen game winning streak, were ranked as high as No. 18 in the nation, and upset top programs like Florida and Miami. Unfortunately for UCF, they trended in the opposite direction in conference play, losing eight straight games in January and February. The Knights were able to finish out the season strong, though. They won seven out of their final 11 games, including two games in the College Basketball Invitational.
Not only has Jones rejuvenated this program on the court, but he has done it off the court as well. Jones has recruited probably the best freshman class in UCF history, highlighted by Michael Chandler, ranked No. 43 in the ESPNU 100 and the No. 5 center in the class. Chandler turned down schools like Kentucky and Connecticut to go to UCF. The other signees, Rod Days, Wayne Martin, and Kasey Wilson, are all three-star forwards according to ESPN.com.
In order for the Knights to find more success in 2011-12 season and potentially reach the Big Dance, they need to not be so streaky and need a better record in Conference USA. With a more experienced and deep squad, both of these improvements seem well within reach.
Jordan is not UCF's only major scoring threat. Forward Keith Clanton tallied 14.2 points per game last season and was also the team's top rebounder, grabbing 7.7 rebounds per game. Clanton was a big-time shot-blocker as well, swatting away 60 shots last year. Jordan's high school teammate A.J. Rompza shared a starting spot with Isaac Sosa last season but should be a consistent starter this season. He was fourth on the team in scoring with 6.4 points per game, second in assists, and first in steals. Dwight McCombs started 19 games last season at center, but will have to compete with high-profile freshman Chandler to keep that position. P.J. Gaynor, who started 13 games last year, also will have to work to stay in the starting lineup as several freshmen and transfers could take his spot.
The main reason why the Knights are so deep is that they will add three solid transfers to their lineup in Jeff Jordan, Tristan Spurlock and Josh Crittle. Jordan left Illinois and decided to join his brother at UCF for his final season of college basketball. Spurlock, who was an ESPNU Top 100 recruit in 2009, will be a candidate to start.
UCF's combination of a core of returning players and loads of new talent should make them lethal in Conference USA and possibly in the NCAA tournament. Donnie Jones now has a roster with big names, including two Jordans and an ESPNU Top 100 Recruit. Now that group of players has to perform.