When Aaron Jordan signed his Letter of Intent to play basketball at Illinois in 2015, he was part of the 15th ranked class in the nation that included fellow top-100 prospects Jalen Coleman-Lands and D.J. Williams, along with transfer big, Darius Paul. Since these players signed, Coleman-Lands and Williams transferred to DePaul and George Washington, respectively; and Darius Paul was removed from the team for a variety of off-the-court issues. This left Aaron Jordan as the lone wolf from the 2015 class.
When Jordan was recruited to Illinois, he was known as a knockdown three-point shooter, but through his first two seasons, the Plainfield, Illinois native found himself shooting under 35 percent from three and struggling to crack the Illinois rotation. Many of Jordan’s shot attempts seemed rushed, and had a “laser beam” trajectory that would require marksman like precision to get in the bucket. With his other classmates no longer on campus and Jordan struggling, the once highly-acclaimed 2015 class seemed like a bust – along with the rest of John Groce’s tenure at Illinois.
Like the Illinois’ basketball program as a whole, Aaron Jordan has seemed to have gotten a much needed shot of confidence with the hiring of Brad Underwood. The Fighting Illini find themselves at 6-0 going into a Big Ten/ACC Challenge match-up at 2-4 Wake Forest, and Aaron Jordan has been an essential cog off the bench. In just over 17.5 minutes per game, Jordan has averages of 11.8 points and 4.3 rebounds per game. These numbers come out to 26.7 points and 9.7 rebounds per 40-minutes, good enough for second and third best on the team. This is all while shooting an impressive 65.2 percent from three-point range, a number that likely won’t hold up but is much better than his career average up until this season.
The installation of Brad Underwood’s position-less “spread” motion has allowed Aaron Jordan to showcase his shooting ability, while proving himself to be a versatile defender. Jordan found himself waiting for the likes of Malcolm Hill, Rayvonte Rice, and Tracy Abrams attempting to make plays while John Groce was the man in charge, and this caused him to do a lot of standing in the corner or on the wing, not allowing him to get much into the flow of the offense.
Front-court depth was a major concern coming into the 2017-18 season for the Illinois Basketball Team, and remains to be one. However, Aaron Jordan’s ability to knock down shots, guard the power forward in small ball lineups, and rebound at a high rate for his size has provided a bit of breathing room. Will Jordan’s effectiveness continue as Illinois moves on to bigger and better opponents? That remains to be seen, but for now, number 23 deserves all the minutes he’s getting and then some.