Jordan Blount is weeks away from signing his letter of intent to play division 1 basketball in the States having played two seasons in Spain. Here he tells me what life is like at Europe’s renowned basketball academy CBA
JORDAN Blount’s parents must have foreseen the future in naming their son after the greatest basketball player of all time.
Just 24 hours after the birth of Gary Blount’s son, Michael Jordan scored 24 points — 18 in the first-half — for the Chicago Bulls against the Utah Jazz.
It made sense, and the birth cert was signed.
Blount Junior isn’t eligible for the NBA draft until 2019, but in the last three years he’s built the foundations in leaving home at the age of 15 to pursue his dream.
While playing for Ireland at an overseas tournament, Blount made a huge impression given his contribution of 22 points against England. Getting word of this Irish, teenage sensation, Jay Marriott recruited him to the Plymouth Raiders Academy.
About to enter fourth year in St Aidan’s College, Dublin Hill, Blount and his family decided that it wasn’t an opportunity to be missed, and he arrived in Plymouth making even more waves with his athleticism in the English league.
Living with Marriot and his wife, young Jordan would soon attract interest from further afield and the Raiders coach wasn’t going to hold him back.
Having taken part in a trial in Spain, Blount was sought by three clubs, including Spanish giants Real Madrid and Barcelona.
Real’s neighbours and ACB rivals Estudiantes also expressed an interest in Blount, but instead he signed for Canarias Basketball Academy (CBA).
Great Britain’s Joel Freeland spent four years spent in Gran Canaria and is now brushing shoulders with Le Bron in the NBA while playing for the Portland Trail Blazers.
Gran Canaria wasn’t initially in the grand plan however as Blount was set to accept a two-year basketball scholarship with Modesto Christian High School in California, but made the smart move in heading to Spain.
“I wanted to go to college so that’s why I chose the academy in Gran Canaria because if you play pro before you go to college and accept money, you can’t go to college in the States,” says the 6ft 7’ forward.
“I had great people around me at the time when I was making my decision like my dad, Jodi Furlong, Ronan O’Sullivan, Ger Noonan and Paul Kelleher, and they were great in giving me the advice I needed.”
The dream began when Blount was aged seven when his father brought him to his older brothers’ basketball game. Jordan was jealous and since then he’s dribbled and dunked his way through life, with his back yard hoop his best friend.
“I was never the type of kid to hang around corners and I played basketball with my friends or practiced out the back with my dad. I just loved it and since then it’s always been my dream to go play Division 1 college basketball.”
Although he can’t reveal yet what colleges are scouting him, many of the top league teams have expressed an interest. First however there’ll be school exams at the end of May, by which time he’ll have probably signed his ‘letter of intent’.
He’ll follow in the footsteps of only a handful of young Irish men who have got a taste of life is on the hardwood in the toughest college league in the world, Dublin’s Conor Meany and Belfast’s Paul Cummins included.
“I’m very excited because at the end of the day I’ve wanted to do this since I was nine years old and finally after all these years for it to come to fruition, it’s like the dream is becoming a reality now and I just can’t wait.”
It surprises me just how level-headed Blount is for a teen who only turned 18 at the start of January. But, as he says himself, he had to grow up fast.
Since, he’s blossomed into a an admirable young man.
He’s now fluent in Spanish, something he mastered last year on his own initiative given that his roommate hadn’t a word of English.
The dream is only weeks away but in the last two seasons it’s been a gruelling routine for Blount.
It goes something like this.
“We get up at 5am and have our breakfast and then we jog to morning practice at 5.30am. Then we start practice at 6am and finish about 8.30am, and then from 9.30am to 1.30pm I’ve classes. We then have some lunch and at 2.15-4.30pm we have shooting practice, and then from 4.30pm to 6.30pm we have study, then from 7-8pm it’s weights, and then from any time between 7.30pm and 11.30pm we have team practice.
“And that’s Monday to Friday,” he smiles.
“We take care of ourselves, and any free time we have we go to physio or take ice baths.
“It is a lot, but the first month at the academy they spend a lot of time getting you into shape.
“Once your body becomes accustomed to it you really don’t think about it too much.”
A love of swimming relaxes him during what down-time he does have — it allows him feel ‘free’, ‘it’s good for your mind’, he says. But, although away from his family and friends, and girlfriend of six months — Emily Black of DCU Mercy — he knows he has to dig deep during the off days.
“I find it hard being away from people, but you have to work at it like anything else.
“I’ve been away from home a long time now but I’m on the phone to my father every night and I Skype my family every week, and I’m onto my girlfriend.
“For me though, when I do get home sick, I just go shoot or go for a run, and it makes you realise why you’re there and helps you to push through it.
“Like everyone, I have my bad days but I left home when I was 15 so I’ve had to mature a lot faster. I’ve great people around me as I say.
“It’s 50% mental and 50% basketball so you just have to keep that in perspective.”
The influence of his father Gary cannot be underestimated in Jordan’s growth, both as a serious basketball player, but as a young adult.
Jordan knows only too well he wouldn’t be where he was if it wasn’t for his dad.
“I owe him everything. It was never him pushing me to go out and play basketball, it was always me going to him and asking him to play and we’d go out the back and shoot around.
“He almost got fed up of me pushing him!” he laughs.
Although there’s not many players he aspires to be like, he does mention Neptune’s Ger Noonan.
“I loved watching Ger play growing up. Being with Neptune I knew him. We’re very close and he coached me for three years in St Aidan’s and I came to know him and his wife, Jodie, very well.”
Are they similar in style then?
“I’m not as eccentric or as boisterous as Ger probably,” he laughs, “but I do like to make my presence known and, that when I’m playing, I want you to know I’m playing.
“I don’t want to be a bystander, I want to make the game my own and let you know I’m there.
“I’m not cocky. I’d like to think I’m very humble. I came from a very humble family and everything I have or I’ve got is a reward. Anything I take or get, I’m ‘thank you very much’. I’m very lucky.
“It’s easy to get carried away in the hype, but my family and my friends are behind me, and I know if my head got too big they’d tell me fairly fast.”
Having got to spend a few days at home over Christmas, Blount trained with Neptune’s Superleague team, before travelling to Madrid and America for two tournaments.
In Portugal he averaged 22 points and 11 rebounds per game, and helped CBA Canaria to three wins out of four prior to heading to the States.
There he competed in the nation’s number one high school tournament, the MaxPreps Holiday Classic, in California, helping his side to finish sixth out of 148 teams.
One win included a serious victory over Rufus King, by 10 points in double overtime, and Jordan played his part.
In February, he’ll take part in a European tournament in Belgrade, the highest competition there is for U18s in Europe. In this his second year with CBA, he will make history in becoming the academy’s first player to return to in a second season to the competition, such is his calibre.
Signing a letter of intent will come next before his school exams, then the European Championships with Ireland in July under the guidance of coaches Joey Boylan and Colin O’Reilly.
And then, the dream really begins with pre-season training at a division one college.