Carol Theodore couldn’t risk the possibility.
The streets had already swallowed another son. But Jordan Theodore’s mother refused to let her youngest misstep and fall into its cracks, too.
So the single parent sent the Seton Hall senior from Englewood, N.J., to Paterson Catholic high school in Paterson, N.J., where he blossomed during the final two years of his prep career. The move, Theodore said, boosted his basketball prospects.
And it may have saved his life.
“I had to discipline myself to stay away from the negative stuff. And at times, I got caught up in some of the negative stuff. Getting in trouble in school and just wildin’ out with my friends,” Theodore told ESPN.com. “But my mother changed my life when she sent me to Paterson Catholic, just to get away from all my friends in Englewood and just to go to Catholic school and just to learn to be disciplined, to stay humble and just to work hard from the classroom and on the court.”
Taking an opportunity and rolling with it. That’s still the theme of Theodore’s life.
He left Paterson Catholic as a Top-100 recruit and all-state selection with scholarship offers from Pitt, Rutgers, Illinois and Seton Hall.
He’s gradually overcome a variety of challenges with the Pirates. Former coach Bobby Gonzalez, who recruited Theodore, was fired following the 2009-10 season. And last year, new Seton Hall coach Kevin Willard dismissed veterans Keon Lawrence and Jamel Jackson.
Meanwhile, Theodore struggled to lead the Pirates as the starting point guard in a new system.
“It was tough last year, trying to learn Coach Willard’s system and just being the first year and trying to lead and do it all at the same time. It was tough because I would call out a play and Coach would change it,” Theodore said. “I didn’t know what he wanted. I knew what Coach Gonzalez wanted.”
After acquiescing to Willard’s expectations, however, Theodore has become one of Big East’s and the nation’s top pure point guards. And Seton Hall has an 8-1 record just weeks away from conference play.
Theodore’s surge was necessary for a team that lost former star Jeremy Hazell, whose 2,148 points rank third on the school’s all-time charts.
His averages of 14.8 points and 7.2 assists per game (No. 6 in the country) are beyond noble, especially considering last season’s averages of 11.0 points and 4.4 assists per contest. But his newfound grasp of his leadership role is equally impressive.
Theodore said a series of “heart to heart” conversations with Willard in the offseason strengthened their relationship.
“I think now, I’m him. On the court, me and him are the same because I know what he’s thinking, he knows what I’m thinking,” Theodore said. “And I know exactly what he wants me to do when I’m on the court.”
Theodore credits the team’s coaches, young players and fellow veteran Herb Pope for Seton Hall’s early success. The tumultuous past dismissed players, coaching changes and a 13-18 (7-11 Big East) finish last season seems distant given the way the Pirates have started.
There is, however, one blemish that’s still difficult for Theodore to overcome. In March, he was accused of confronting Lawrence in a dorm room while brandishing a handgun. But the Essex County prosecutor’s office decided against pressing charges due to insufficient evidence. Seton Hall also cleared Theodore after a separate investigation.
Still, Theodore believes the situation briefly stained his career.
“Just for that to even come out, it was bad for me,” he said. “To this day, if you type my name on Google, the first thing that pops up is Jordan Theodore being accused of assault with a deadly weapon. I don’t want that up there, but I can’t change it.”
Theodore misspoke. It’s actually the second item that appears during a Google search of his name.
The first is Theodore’s stat sheet on ESPN.com. The one that showcases the talent and promise birthed from his mother’s determination.