Jourdain carving out minutes with versatility

Temple Men’s Basketball sophomore forward Nick Jourdain’s game has evolved from being a role player to having a key role under head coach Aaron McKie.

Standing at 6 feet eight inches, Nick Jourdain has proved to be a versatile two-way forward for the Owls. | ROBERT JOSEPH CRUZ / THE TEMPLE NEWS

Nick Jourdain grew up with many athletic talents. Throughout his childhood, the Temple big man went from baseball to soccer to football, excelling at each. Yet the day he picked up a basketball, the other sports seemed to fade into the back of his mind. 

“I’ve always been drawn to basketball,” Jourdain said. “I was always a bit more talented playing [basketball]. I knew naturally it was going to put me in the best position.”

Jourdain, a Temple Men’s Basketball sophomore forward, now stands at 6 feet eight inches and has one of the highest vertical leaps on the team. His versatility in playing other sports has developed into utility on the basketball court. 

In Temple’s 61-59 loss to the University of Memphis on Jan. 15, Jourdain stuffed the stat sheet with 16 points, 10 rebounds and three blocks. He made several clutch plays down the stretch for the Owls and went 6-for-6 from the foul line. Although he allowed Tigers’ fifth-year guard Kendric Davis to score the game-winning shot against him, Jourdain’s performance leading up to the final play was a key reason the Owls had a chance to win the game. 

While the contest against Memphis was Jourdain’s most notable performance to date, his game-changing ability has been no secret to the team. 

“He’s a versatile player, helps us in a number of different ways,” said head coach Aaron McKie. “Offensively, we can run some stuff through him. Defensively, he can get out there and play some five for us at the end of games.”

While Jourdain has seen a surge in playing time after sophomore center Jamille Reynolds’  thumb injury in December, he’s struggled to find consistent minutes during his Temple career. He lacked the strength to keep up with opposing centers and wasn’t quick enough to keep pace with other forwards. 

Jourdain played in 29 games during the 2021-22 season, starting in 18 of them. A block magnet, he finished second in The American Athletic Conference in blocks per game, averaging 1.7. Jourdain’s timing and athleticism down low have allowed him to become a strong rim protector. 

This season, Jourdain ranks fifth in the conference in blocks per game with 1.4 while starting in every conference game so far for the Owls. 

Even though he has gained significant muscle since high school, Jourdain has plenty of work to do in terms of filling out his body and improving his quickness on the floor to become a more agile defender. 

“He had to get a little bit stronger coming from high school,” McKie said. “I don’t think his body is completely filled out, he has more room to pack some muscle then I think he’ll be the complete player I think he can be.”

By working on different aspects of his game, Jourdain has become a multidimensional weapon for Temple, an archetype his post-grad prep school coach, Ian Turnbull, saw from day one. Turnbull coached Jourdain at Covenant College Prep in Neptune City, New Jersey, for two years and saw him blossom from a four-sport athlete to a pure basketball player. 

“He had exceptional physical ability,” Turnbull said. “When he came to us I tried to get him to expand on his skills.”

These skills included footwork, ball handling and shot creation, aspects of Jourdain’s game that received less attention growing up. 

To improve as an athlete in high school, Jourdain showed up at local parks around Clifton, New Jersey, to get some extra practice in. While playing AAU and high school basketball at the time, he knew it would take extra practice to round out his skill set. 

The only problem was, he showed up to the courts by himself and needed to prove he could be an asset before playing alongside the locals of Paterson or Passaic, New Jersey. 

“I was that annoying kid asking ‘can you pick me up, can you pick me up,’” Jourdain said. “So I was like alright, let me play defense, so I would try to guard the best player.”

Jourdain knew he needed to improve his offensive skills because he focused strictly on defense when at the parks. He developed a mindset where his work ethic defensively came before his offensive focus. 

Today, Jourdain has a career-high of 23 points, which he scored on Jan. 12, 2022 against the University of Tulsa. He also had a career-high five blocks against Clemson University on Nov. 18, 2021. 

The ‘plug-and-play’ forward has gone from a positionless big to a player who can fill in for several spots on the floor. With small-ball bigs becoming commonplace at the professional level, Jourdain could establish himself as a key player for a team in the future. 

For right now, though, it is all about winning for Temple’s flex player. 

“For this year I really badly want us to finish first in conference play,” Jourdain said. “As long as the team’s doing good, I’m doing good.”

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