By CLAUDE SCILLEY
Nobody expected to see him when the Bayridge Blazers announced tryouts for senior boys basketball in the fall. “He just showed up,” Blazers coach Geoff Stewart said.
Halfway through the high school season, Jordan Carr remained the third or fourth man off the Bayridge bench.
Still, the impact the young man is making on the team, Stewart says, goes beyond even the underdog tale of someone making good unexpectedly. “If Jordan doesn’t score 12, I don’t think Matt gets 17,” Stewart said after a particular game just before the Christmas break against the Frontenac Falcons.
It was a game the youthful Blazers would lose by 20 points and, as has been the custom, it was one where Matt Brash, one of the league’s premier players, led his team in scoring. It was a terrible upstream struggle for Brash, however, in the early part of the game, as everyone in the gym knew he was the only genuine threat the Blazers had.
That was, until Carr came into the game and started causing the Falcons some concern under the basket. He played well enough that Frontenac had to start paying a little bit of attention to him. “He forced them to come off Matt,” Stewart said. “There were times Matt was being defended by at least four (players). Jordan gave Matt a little bit of room here and there.”
It’s a bonus when a coach gets production from a player who walks on, and on this day Carr would score 12 points, a worthy contribution all by itself. When said player has what his coach calls the best game of his career, in terms of his rebounding, defence, “seeing the ball, being a participant in the offensive side—everything,” well, that’s something else again.
Especially for kid, Stewart said, who had never played organized basketball before this season.
“You know what? A year ago, he doesn’t play for us,” said Stewart, who last year had a team built around an impressive group of fourth- and fifth-year seniors.
“A year ago, (Carr) doesn’t make our team, because we would have had significantly more experienced pieces, so his level of experience would have dictated not taking a flyer on him, but this year, with a less experienced group (we did).”
Carr came to Bayridge at the start of second semester last year from Frontenac, where he hadn’t exactly set the academic world on fire.
“He needed a different learning environment,” Stewart said, “and has had, I think, a really positive experience of school as a result of that decision. That’s not to say the folks at Frontenac weren’t doing everything they could to help him have a positive experience at school, but anybody I’ve talked to is either amazed that Jordan is engaged in school to the degree that he is, or amazed that Jordan is actually still at school.
“I don’t know the types of decisions he was making Grade 9 through the first half of Grade 12, but my sense is that what you’re seeing out there is a kid who has decided that with change comes opportunity.”
Stewart couldn’t be more pleased.
“Sometimes you’re lucky when a kid shows up, and you put a little bit into them and they put a whole lot back for you,” he said. “We talked (the other day) and he wants to go to Ryerson and I think that’s a good goal for him, a good fit for him, and I don’t think that’s something that he would have necessarily expressed as a goal, three, four or five years ago.
“I’m really proud of him. I think he has a lot to be proud of and a lot to feel good about, not just as an athlete, but as a student.”