George Mason High School’s Jordan Cheney, a 6-foot-7 senior and center on the boys varsity basketball team, recently announced he attend Swarthmore College this fall, to take the floor for the Garnet.
It’s the culmination of a lengthy basketball career at George Mason for Cheney, one which will soon end in the upcoming months.
Dating back to his sophomore year at George Mason, when Cheney first joined the Mustangs’ varsity team, the center has had an giant-sized impact on coach Chris Capannola’s program. As a sophomore, Cheney hit the game-winning shot as time expired in Mason’s Region B, first-round 52-50 victory over Wilson Memorial High School. His second-year campaign was good enough to be named a member of the Second Team All-Bull Run District, a year in which he nearly averaged a double-double.
Beginning in Falls Church’s youth league at age seven, Cheney has routinely taken the court as the tallest player out there. Going into his freshman year at Mason, Cheney says that local private powerhouse Bishop O’Connell began looking at him to attend and play for the Knights, an indication that his height could take him places.
Cheney will join a blossoming Swarthmore program, which competes in the highly lucrative Continental Conference. Coach Lee Wimberly, who is in his 23rd year on the Garnet bench and once coached at Pomona-Pitzer with current San Antonio Spurs leader Gregg Popovich, first saw Cheney at the Hoop Group Elite Camp, held at Albright College in Reading, Penn. What impressed Wimberly the most was Cheney’s dedication to sports and academics, something the coach pinpoints as a trait all Swarthmore athletes hold.
“He is obviously a class act kid and his priorities are in the right place,” Wimberly said. “He recognizes that academics come first and I only want to recruit kids to recognize that. College is an expensive proposition and it’s important that their number one priority is to get a good education. But he also wants basketball to be an important part of the college experience and we also want kids to have that.”
For Cheney, the combination of top-notch academics and the opportunity to take the court for Swarthmore attracted him the most to Wimberly’s program.
“That’s the first thing, the academics,” said Cheney, who plans to enter Swarthmore’s engineering program. “I always wanted to use basketball to get me into a good school. Swarthmore obviously isn’t a basketball powerhouse, but a great academic institution like this allows you to have a great social life on the side but still pull in the good grades.”
Located just outside Philadelphia, Swarthmore (3-12 at press time) currently lists three players on its roster who stand at 6-foot-7, two of whom are freshmen. First-years Ramsey Walker and Eugene Prymak average 1.6 and 4.3 points-per-game, respectively, while junior Sam Lacy is scoring 3.4 per contest. Wimberly, who noted the Garnet’s struggles this year in terms of post-player caliber, envisions Cheney stepping into the Swarthmore rotation next winter.
“We’re hoping that he’ll be able to come right in and do some contributing,” Wimberly said. “He has the potential to be a pretty darn good Division-III player. He has to keep working on his game and keep filling out and physically mature more. But he’s tall and long and seems to have a pretty good work ethic.”
Cheney and Mason still have six Bull Run District games left remaining on their schedule, but having his future all planned out has taken off some of the edge.
“It’s all fun for me, the pressure is gone,” Cheney said. “Still I need to push myself in the future. I don’t have to worry about the stats at much, just worry about winning and playing Mason basketball.”
Though Cheney still has the majority of his senior season left with the Mustangs, the prospect of playing at the collegiate level excites him.
“I’m really excited,” he said. “Growing up the dream is the NBA but right below that is playing college basketball. Early in my life I never thought I’d had the opportunity to do but as I grew up I thought I had a shot.”