Cynthia Jordan did not take the typical road to becoming Dawn Staley’s starting point guard.
Starting only three games in her first two seasons, the junior played scattered minutes, quietly following in the footsteps of the now departed Stacey Smalls, who became the only women’s player in Temple history to score 1,000 points and lead the team in assists for four years.
“Playing under Stacey was a learning tool for me,” Jordan said. “From day one she always had control of the team and that’s something I’ve never had. Over those two years, Stacey showed me how to control a team and how to learn the value of the basketball.”
Now at the helm, Jordan has been more successful than Staley could’ve ever envisioned.
“She’s hungry and she’ll do anything for [a win],” Staley said. “She’s an example of what Temple players should be.”
Finding an open teammate has become much easier as the season rolls into its critical stages. And Jordan’s ability to knock down the open three-point shot has kept defenders on their toes when she is on the floor.
Jordan had the talent necessary to earn the starting job when she first arrived at Temple. Staley, however, believed that hastily injecting Jordan into an offense she was unfamiliar with could have been detrimental to the team’s progression. Staley still stands by that decision.
“Before this season, she thought she should have played a lot more than she did,” Staley said. “But she’s been successful for that one reason. If we would have brought her on prematurely in her first or second year, I don’t think she would have been able to run the program like she has been.
“She’s had her moments where she’s done really, really well, but she’s also had her moments where she hasn’t looked good. Part of being a good point guard is to decrease the times when you don’t look good. She has come a long way. She’s been able to maintain.”
One of four Owls to start every game this season, Jordan is the wheel that has turned the offense into the effective unit. Jordan, the team’s second leading scorer with 9.5 points per game, is posting career numbers in nearly every category this year, including 4.2 assists per game.
Whether its finding an open teammate along the baseline, waiting for the open jump shot or driving the lane, Jordan has remained patient in setting up the offense.
“I knew my role would fluctuate this season,” Jordan said. “Initially we were looking for offense. [It] was my role to provide that. But now that we’ve found it, my job now is more to run the team and make sure we get good looks and keep the team under control.
“With our record and me being at the helm of the team, I think it’s very encouraging. It keeps me motivated to know that I’m the one responsible [for running the offense].”
Aside from her athletic career, Jordan has also been able to keep her academics under control. In fact, the 5-foot-7 marketing major from Chesapeake, Va. is graduating a year ahead of schedule.
“I’m currently involved in enrolling in the graduate program here at Temple,” Jordan said. “I still have one more year of eligibility [to play].”
Jordan’s desire for working hard both on and off the court is something she attributes to her older brother, Christopher.
Although a hard worker like Cynthia, her brother never got his chance to play college ball. His grades, according to Cynthia, kept him off the court. But that made Cynthia realize the importance of academic eligibility.
“He’s an inspiration for me on the court,” Jordan said. “I’ve been afforded things that he hasn’t, like playing basketball on the Division I level. Through my college on-court experience, I’m playing for him, too.
“For what he’s been through, I look up to him as a role model. He wasn’t the top player, but he worked his way up.”
Whether playing for her brother or her teammates, Jordan’s desire has hardly gone unnoticed. Her coaches and teammates have noticed her craving for success.
“C.J. had a long road to travel since her freshman year,” senior forward Toni Belafonte said. “She has grown a lot as a player. She didn’t realize coach’s plans for her in her freshman year but she sees it now.”
With six games remaining, the Owls are currently atop the Atlantic Ten East division at 13-8 overall, 9-1 A-10.
Jordan said there is no limit to how far the Owls can go.
“I think our potential is limitless,” she said. “It’s a matter of how we play. If we bring it night in and night out like we’re capable of, I think we can make it to the dance [NCAA Tournament]. We can make it far and surprise a lot of people.”
Christopher A. Vito can be reached at email@example.com.