March 1, 2013
By Jon Cooper
The normal course of nature is for the son to leave the nest as a sign of growing up.
College athletics reverses that course. Instead, it is the elders that leave and it’s up to they youngsters they’ve taken under their wings to carry on and set their legacy.
On Sunday evening the father figures for the 2012-13 Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets, Pierre Jordan, who is father to a three-year-old daughter and Mfon Udofia, who may as well be the father to three sons — freshman roommates Chris Bolden, Robert Carter, Jr., and Marcus Georges-Hunt — will take the floor for their final home game and be recognized in a pre-game ceremony prior to Georgia Tech hosting NC State (tip-off is scheduled for 6 p.m.).
“Senior Nights are filled with a little extra emotion,” said head coach Brian Gregory. “With two kids that took different paths to get here, but are both Atlanta kids playing here at Georgia Tech, I know, has meant a lot to both of them.”
Both Udofia and Jordan have seen their share of Senior Nights, so they know what to expect.
“[There’s] a lot of emotion,” said Udofia, who will be escorted onto the court by his mother. “You know everybody’s going to be rooting for you because it’s your last home game. You want to go out with a win. Your teammates are playing really hard trying to get that win for you.”
Udofia, a Stone Mountain native and Miller Grove High School star, was recruited by and played his first two years for former coach Paul Hewitt. In that time, he transformed from a shoot-first two-guard to a pass-first point. Over the final two seasons, under Gregory, he has begun to show signs of mastering the position.
“That was a challenge that he wanted,” said Gregory. “That position is always the most analyzed and criticized and I think he’s handled that pretty well. Sometimes, and this is unfortunate for a kid like Mfon, all the things that he’s done over the last two years, you may not see the fruits of that labor until later. That’s hard for young guys to not only understand but to be okay with. He’s done a great job with that.”
Learning the position and two different systems was only part of the adjustment period for Udofia. He also had to get used having four different home courts. Of course, he said it didn’t fluster him.
“That was cool,” he said. “I got a chance to play in every arena that we could play in — Thrillerdome, Gwinnett Arena, Philips and now McCamish. That’s a good feeling to be one of the people that played in all the arenas.”
Jordan arrived on The Flats two seasons ago, the same year as Gregory, transferring to Georgia Tech to begin work on his Master’s after graduating in three years from Florida State. Coming home meant a lot to the Dunwoody native. Completing his education and his collegiate career Sunday will mean even more.
“It means a lot, being my last home game as a senior,” said Jordan, who will take the floor accompanied his parents and daughter. “I had one at Florida State, but it’s kind of more meaningful because I get to walk on the court with my family and hold up my jersey. It shows a great accomplishment that I have achieved in my lifetime.
“They’re going to be REAL proud of me. Real proud,” he said of his parents. “I wouldn’t be surprised if my mom cries while she’s out there. I’ve never seen my father shed a tear but I know he’s real happy inside for me. To be the first graduate out of my family means a lot. Graduating and setting a stepping stone for everybody after me in my family, my daughter, my sister, it means a lot to me. To actually be a college grad and also going out there and getting my Master’s means a lot.”
The duo have meant a lot to the program.
“They’ve provided a lot of leadership, a lot of change in the daily work habits of our guys because those two are our hardest workers,” said Gregory. “When you’re able to show the resilience that we’ve been able to show, in particular this year, you attribute that to your two leaders and that’s exactly what those two guys have done. They’ve been extremely positive during the tough times, they’ve been demanding of other guys and that’s exactly what you want from your senior captains.”
Udofia’s presence obviously means a lot on the floor, where he directs the offense. But he has had as profound an influence in pointing Tech’s three freshmen in the right direction off the court.
“I’m like a dad in the room,” he said, with a laugh. “When I come back to the room after the whole day, everybody’s sitting there waiting for me, happy for me to come home. I talk to those guys. They keep it interesting, too. Those guys are always playing around with each other, just like little kids.
“At first I was like, ‘Man. What? All freshmen?’ But now, for me to teach these guys and to be around those guys every day, is fun.”
The freshmen have been grateful for Udofia’s guidance.
“Mfon is just always there,” said Bolden. “He’s always there to talk to on and off the court. We joke around but then we have our serious moments, too.”
When it comes to being serious, Bolden said nobody tops Jordan.
“Pierre never let us slack up,” he said. “It was always, ‘Do you want us to do an extra one?’ He would always ask the strength and conditioning coach, ‘What happened to this [exercise]?’ or ‘Why aren’t we doing THIS this time?’ He’d always push the whole team. At the time, you’re like, ‘Dang! What are you doing?’ But you appreciate it once it comes down to later on in the season.”
That work and leadership is paying off with the success of the freshman class. Udofia and Jordan are looking forward to seeing how their promise is fulfilled.
“I’m happy to see the way Marcus, Chris, and Rob are playing for us,” said Udofia. “The way these guys have progressed is big. I want to see these guys succeed. When I leave, I want to see these guys go deep into postseason, deep into the Tournament. I’ll be so excited.
“Just carry on something after we leave,” he added. “Hard work, the meaning of dedication, the meaning of bringing it every single day to practice and that’s pretty much it. So when we leave those guys can carry it on for the next group.”
“They have come a long way. They have grown a lot,” said Jordan. “Coming from high school to college, it’s a big jump and for them to take it on as they did, I’m real proud of the freshmen. They’re showing tremendous upside for next year and also to finish off this year.”
This year’s group will never forget just what their senior mentors have meant to them.
“They meant a lot. They virtually carried the team emotionally, mentally and everything,” said Bolden. “They keep us going. They’re the backbone of our team. I’m going to miss both of them.”