Mario Jordan stands 5-foot, 11 1/2 inches. He allows himself to round up his height, but only in his mind.
“I believe I’m 6-foot,” he said, “but everybody tells me I’m 5-11.”
The story sounds better when it involves a Paine senior guard – one who stands just shy of 6 foot – slamming a basketball with ease. In high school, he won an All-Star dunk contest. And today, he hopes to leave fans with a windmill dunk, 360-degree slam or something else in his arsenal.
Jordan will try make a final impression when the Lions close out the regular season at 3 p.m. against Benedict at the HEAL Complex.
“If I do dunk, I hope I get a fast break,” he said. “And I hope we’re up.”
Jordan doesn’t dunk much these days; he’s posted just one this season. Instead, he’s made his mark as a scorer. Today, he needs one point to reach 1,200 for his career.
Though the school doesn’t keep a list of the top career scorers in Paine history, Jordan is believed to be in an elite group of players with more 1,000 career points.
“Mario can score at any time,” Lions coach Jimmy Link said. “He’s pretty consistent, too. He’s only had two or three bad games this season, and they weren’t even that bad.”
After posting a solid first three years, Jordan is having a breakout final season, ranking fifth in the Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference in scoring, averaging 14.5 points a game on 47 percent shooting from the field. He’s also second in the league in free-throw percentage (.769), fifth in steals (1.9) and seventh in three-point percentage (.392).
Jordan’s worked on improving his game, just as he worked on strengthening his legs in high school so he could dunk. During one summer, he did 600 calf raises a night holding 15-pound dumbells. When he returned to Washington County High School, he slammed a basketball on the first day of P.E.
“In high school,” he said, “I always wanted to dunk because everybody on my team could dunk.”
The 23-year-old Jordan grew up in Sandersville, Ga., the middle child with two sisters. His mother, Veronica, who’s attended all of his home games, has been married to Alvin Cato since 1998.
“She’s been my No. 1 supporter,” Jordan said. “She tells me what’s wrong. She tells me when I have attitude. She’s told me my attitude will only get me so far.”
A spot-up shooter only in high school, Jordan has matured on and off the court during his college career. He first attended Savannah State, but he never played a minute after he learned the coach wanted him to be the team manager.
Jordan transferred to Paine, where he admitted to being in a bad mood at times on the court if he didn’t get the ball. But now that he’s the team captain, Jordan is all smiles. And whether he dunks today or not, he’s already built a legacy Paine fans will remember.
“This year it’s ‘Yes, sir’ and ‘No, sir’ and ‘Let’s go’ with him,” Link said. “He’s smiling a lot. He’s become a tremendous leader.”