No, Michael Jordan isn’t returning to basketball, like he announced in his two-word press release in 1995. But another Jordan has made a comeback in a significant way. This Jordan, however, plays for the Michigan women’s basketball team.
During the Dec. 30, 2010 game against Ohio State, sophomore guard Nya Jordan suffered a season-ending ACL injury. Her starting position was assumed by junior guard Courtney Boylan, but Jordan’s confidence during Big Ten games was something the team missed in her absence. Jordan underwent surgery and intense physical therapy during the offseason to help get her ready for the 2011-12 season.
At the beginning of this season, Jordan, now a junior, made significant progress from her injury, but her knee wasn’t feeling completely comfortable. Michigan coach Kevin Borseth noticed this and started freshman guard Nicole Elmblad in her place. Though Jordan has seen action in all of the games this season, it wasn’t until Big Ten season rolled around that she hit her stride.
Borseth altered the starting lineup, putting Jordan back in to replace Elmblad, even though he believes her knee won’t be back to 100 percent until next season. Though he reiterates that the last five players on the court are the true starters, Borseth understands what Jordan brings to the table during conference play.
“Nya gives us a great deal of confidence,” Borseth said. “She plays at this level, she understands how to play at this level (and) she can play really tough in traffic.”
Borseth also said Jordan guards and rebounds well, making her an asset on the defensive end.
Her confidence and ability to hold her own against tough Big Ten opponents is something Elmblad doesn’t have as a freshman. Elmblad has yet to adapt to the aggressiveness of conference play, which is one of the reasons why Jordan found herself back in the starting five.
“Nya grew up in a very aggressive basketball community,” Borseth said. “I think (her experience from last year) and her upbringing really prepared her to play at this level.”
Since her freshman year, Jordan has been able to bond with the team and build trust with the other players, making her well-suited for the starting lineup.
“(The team) is comfortable with her,” said junior forward Rachel Sheffer. “I think just being with her for the last couple years, we’re a lot more comfortable with her. She’s very athletic, she does things not many people can do. She’s just a smart player in general, so it’s really nice to have her out there.”
Jordan is glad to be back with the team and excited about returning to her starting position, though she did mention that she has learned to see the game differently coming off the bench.
“Coming off the bench, you kind of have a grasp of how the game is going, the pace of the game,” Jordan said. “Starting, you have to make quicker decisions because you don’t know how things are going to turn out.”
Despite this challenge, Jordan has done a good job readjusting to her role as a starter. She’s been averaging 23 minutes since returning to the starting five and her confidence in her play has shown in her numbers — all of her averages have increased since conference play began.
“I think it’s been good for me because I’ve been (more) confident … when I start the game as far as coming off the bench,” Jordan said. “I had a little bit of experience before I got injured, and I was just waiting to get back into Big Ten play because it’s much more fun.”