North Crowley freshman ready to hit national stage on top-flight AAU tour

05/05/2014 2:29 PM

05/05/2014 2:30 PM

This afternoon, as on all Sunday afternoons, the gym at North Crowley high school echoes with the sound of squeaking sneakers and the thump of a solitary bouncing basketball.

There are three of them, a father and his two sons. The youngest, 12-year-old Jaiden Myers, shoots free throws while his father and older brother look on.

He’s made five in a row. The sixth clanks off the back of the rim.

“Five pushups,” says his father, Greaylin. “You’re up, Jordon. Shoot till you miss.”

After 11 in a row, Jordon, whose name is spelled with two o’s to differentiate him from the Jordan he was named after, finally misses.

“Five pushups,” says his father. “You’re either gonna be strong or you’re gonna be a great free-throw shooter.”

The state’s best freshman basketball player complies, dropping to the ground at his father’s instruction.

In a few months, Myers will embark on a high-profile, nationwide series of AAU basketball tournaments, playing against the country’s top-ranked juniors and seniors.

When the whirlwind summer concludes, a different Myers will return to the North Crowley basketball team.

“Most scouting services start to rank players after their freshman year,” AAU coach Jason Ross said. “But typically they see those guys in the summer after their freshman year in order to determine where they’re going to end up being ranked. Right now, Jordon Myers is by far the best guard in Texas for the class of 2017.”

At 6-foot-3 with a 6-foot-6 wingspan, Myers has no trouble playing above the rim. In a district game against rival Arlington Bowie, Myers wowed the crowd while attempting to dunk over 6-foot-10 center Dante Hales. Hales ultimately deflected the attempt, but the fearless nature of the play from the freshman had the crowd on its feet.

The moment was captured in a photograph by the Star-Telegram and circulated in the next day’s newspaper.

“All my friends couldn’t believe how much higher I was than [Hales],” Myers said. “I didn’t think about it. I was just trying to get to the rim.”

After the Sunday practice session, Jordon’s father drops him off at his maternal grandmother’s house, where he shares a bedroom with his 9-year-old cousin, Darrion. The walls of the room are plastered with pictures of NBA legends and college logo decals. Across the room, a set of Duke Blue Devils bedsheets have been fashioned into makeshift curtains.

Relatively quiet and shy, the basketball prodigy sits on the edge of his twin bed clutching a stack of college recruiting letters wrapped in a rubber band.

He pulls out an envelope from Ohio State. “This is the second letter I ever received,” he says softly. “It’s very special to me. They’re in my top five.”

He sandwiches the envelope between letters from North Carolina and Kansas.

“These are all blessings,” Myers says.

All the top schools, it seems, have made initial contact.

“His game is so smooth and so effortless and graceful,” Ross said. “It’s kind of like his personality, and I think basketball is really his way of expressing himself.”

His days are relatively simple.

“Hoop, school, eat and sleep,” Myers says. “Basketball is my first love. I want to be the next Lebron ... the next Kevin Durant.”

He doesn’t blink when he says this.

“He gets phone calls from different coaches all the time,” said his grandmother, Vanessa Reynolds. “They’ll call and say they are short a player, and an hour later, someone will pull up to the house and off he’ll go. Different teams, different coaches — it doesn’t matter to him; he just loves it so much.”

There are many levels of AAU basketball. Much like select baseball, anyone can field a team and enter a tournament, but at its highest level, the level Jordon occupies, it’s like watching a statewide All-Star game every night. His team, Mo Williams Elite, sponsored by NBA veteran Mo Williams of the Portland Trail Blazers, features some of the nation’s top-ranked recruits.

His team includes top recruits Malik Newman, a 6-foot-3 guard from Jackson, Miss., rated as the No. 2 player in the class of 2015, and Terrance Ferguson, a 6-5 guard from Dallas Prime Prep rated eighth in the class.

“Scouts are going to come out to see those guys, and in the process they’re going to walk away saying ‘Wow, did you see that freshman?’ He won’t be a secret for long,” Ross said.

Reynolds says if you can’t find her grandson outside playing on the neighbor’s portable goal, you’ll probably find him at North Crowley getting in extra work with his high school coach, Tommy Brakel.

Top basketball talent is no stranger to Brakel, who guided his 2007-08 team to the 5A state championship while being named 5A coach of the year.

“We have had some really, really good basketball players here at North Crowley,” Brakel said. “Keith Langford and Willie Warren were both NBA players. Kyan Anderson is the starting point guard at TCU right now. One day, I’ll be saying Jordon Myers. I think he has a chance to be an All-American one day.”

Myers, who was named District 3-5A Newcomer of the Year, is the only true freshman Brakel has ever started on a varsity team.

“It was a tough decision,” Brakel said. “But ultimately, when you have a player as talented as he is and he has the opportunity to help your varsity immediately, it really makes it not such a tough decision.”

Brakel smiles at the thought of having Myers for three more seasons.

“We have a strong freshman class,” he said. “Jordon is one of the special ones. Maybe we can make another trip downstate in a few years.”

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