Yale basketball standout Blackman picks hometown Cascades
Sometimes, one play is all it takes to send a high school athlete's stock into the stratosphere.
Consider the case of Yale Secondary basketball star Jordan Blackman. Playing for B.C.'s under-17 team at the national championships in Winnipeg last summer, he used a game against Ontario as a launching pad – both literally and figuratively – for his post-secondary career.
Recalling the moment still brings a smile to Blackman's face.
"One of our guards stole the ball, and he passed it ahead to me," he recounted. "There was just one guy back. I was dribbling down the left side, and he tried to cut me off right at the basket. But I was already in the air, and it was too late. I just went (and dunked) right over top of him."
The huge throwdown sent the crowd into hysterics, and simultaneously expanded Blackman's recruiting options from local to national. B.C. coaches were already well aware of the 6'5" shooting guard, whose skill set blends explosive athleticism with a smooth stroke from beyond the arc. Suddenly, university coaches from across Canada were courting the Abbotsford hoopster.
"He definitely made a name for himself at that tournament," said University of the Fraser Valley head coach Barnaby Craddock, who coached Blackman on the provincial U17 team. "It was remarkable. (The dunk) was one of those plays where I knew he'd be recruited by schools across the country."
Blackman weighed offers from programs in B.C. (Trinity Western, SFU, UVic) and Ontario (Toronto, Western Ontario), among others, and also considered spending a year at prep school in North Carolina with an eye on earning an NCAA scholarship.
Ultimately, Craddock was able to convince the versatile 18-year-old to stay close to home, and Blackman committed this week to join the UFV Cascades.
"Trinity was my No. 1 for a really long time, but the style of offence that UFV plays is freer," Blackman explained. "It kind of resembles how we play at Yale, and I think it's a better fit."
Current UFV star Joel Friesen is a player Blackman is commonly compared to, both in terms of skill set and career path. Both honed their games in the Junior Cascades youth program, and both celebrated a provincial AAA title with Yale – Friesen in 2008, Blackman in 2010.
The history between the two future Cascades teammates, in fact, goes back even further.
"Our moms were really close friends, and they used to room together," Blackman related. "So for a year or two, when I was four or five years old, I used to live with Joel. It was way before we were into basketball or anything. He's always kind of been my big brother.
"Me and him, we'd sit at home and play Sega Genesis against each other – usually Street Fighter. He'd always beat me."
Craddock is hoping Blackman's development continues to parallel that of Friesen, who was a second team Canada West all-star as a sophomore last season.
"We see him as sort of the next-generation star," the Cascades bench boss said. "He's going to contribute as a freshman, and you could see him being a Canada West all-star down the road, a CIS all-Canadian talent."
Blackman becomes the sixth Yale alumnus on the Cascades roster, joining Friesen, Jasper Moedt, Sheldon Bjorgaard, Josh Kufske and Nathan Kendall.
While Blackman solidifies UFV's perimeter rotation, the Cascades also figure to have much-improved depth in the post next season. Moedt and Kyle Grewal are set to return from knee injuries that sidelined them for the entire 2010-11 campaign, and Craddock has added another top-notch big man in former University of Winnipeg centre Mike James.
"He's a 6'6" banger with a really nice post game," Craddock said of James, who is heading into his fifth and final season of CIS eligibility. "The buzz around our program right now is quite exciting."