Reusse: Jordair Jett writing success story at St. Louis
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Dennis Fitzpatrick is a noted St. Paul hoops-aholic. Back in the winter of 2008-09, Rodney Williams was getting plenty of publicity for his dynamic play at Robbinsdale Cooper.
Fitzpatrick told me a few times that there was another senior to check out: Jordair Jett, a guard at St. Bernard's in St. Paul.
The word was that it was going to take an act of kindness to get either Williams or Jett past an admissions department at a four-year school. Apparently, Rodney had a big rally in the classroom during his senior year at Cooper, for he was at Minnesota as a freshman in 2009-10 and has remained in good standing.
The 6-foot-7 junior will be the best athlete on the floor when the Gophers play Northwestern today (4:30 p.m.) in the first round of the Big Ten tournament.
Jett did spend a year at prep school _ Notre Dame in Fitchburg, Mass. _ to get his grades in shape to receive a Division I scholarship. The fact that he wound up with Rick Majerus at St. Louis wasn't a big surprise, since Majerus and Fitzpatrick are buddies.
I'm sure that Fitz put Jordair's name in Majerus' ear several years ago and didn't let up.
Majerus was on the phone this week, hoping to get some publicity for Jett back in the Twin Cities.
"Jordair is a great underdog story,'' Majerus said. "He came from a tough situation in St. Paul. He went to Massachusetts on his own to prep school, did well, and then he came to St. Louis ... again, on his own.
"Jordair gives it everything he has every day in practice. And in the classroom, he gives it an A-plus effort to get Cs.
"One of the good things that happened to us this year was when Jordair was named to the Atlantic 10 all-defensive team. He has to be one of the few guys in the country who was all-conference like that without being a starter.''
Jett is a 6-foot-1 sophomore. He has played in all 30 Billikens games, averaging 21 minutes. He can leap and blocked 14 shots. He also has 14 steals. He's played a secondary role on offense, although Jordair was a big scorer at St. Bernard's and Majerus expects him to become more of a threat over the rest of his career at St. Louis.
St. Louis was 24-6 overall and 12-4 in the Atlantic 10 in the regular season. The Billikens play LaSalle this afternoon in the second round of the conference tournament. No matter what happens in the A-10 tourney, the Billikens will receive a spot in the NCAA bracket.
Majerus had an exceptional run at Utah before resigning at the end of the 2004 season. A few months later, he accepted the job at Southern Cal, intending to take over from an interim coach in the spring of 2005. Five days later, he reneged, saying that he wasn't ready to coach the Trojans because of health concerns.
Two years later, there was an opening at Minnesota. Majerus was feeling better hoped to get a serious shot at the job with the Gophers. Athletic Director Joel Maturi refused to consider Majerus _ and then Tubby Smith basically hired himself as Minnesota's coach by letting the Gophers know that he wanted to leave Kentucky.
That was in April 2007. Five seasons later, Majerus has turned around St. Louis, with a team and a program on the rise. Tubby has hit the skids in Minnesota, taking a 12-25 Big Ten record over the last two seasons into this afternoon's game with Northwestern.
Smith and Majerus met in the 1998 NCAA title game. It was Smith's first year at Kentucky and he was coaching Rick Pitino's players. The Wildcats won with a second half rally.
What we keep hearing from people in the U of M administration is that what's happened to the Gophers can't be Tubby's fault because, "He's a national championship coach.''
Too bad Utah didn't win that game. Maybe Maturi would have given Majerus a shot, and the Gophers would be better off today.