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The City Journals

Special JDCHS basketball team manager signs with SLCC to stay on the court

Apr 30, 2022 10:40AM ● By Catherine Garrett

By Catherine Garrett | [email protected]

When Jason and Kate Andersen of South Jordan found out their young son, Jordan, had DiGeorge Syndrome, they couldn’t imagine what his future held for him. They certainly didn’t see this.

Jordan, a senior at Juan Diego Catholic High School, will graduate at the end of May and begin a team manager position for the Salt Lake Community College men’s basketball team,  a now familiar spot for him as he has served the JDCHS boys team in the same role for the past four years.

On April 13 at Juan Diego, Jordan signed with SLCC in front of his family, coaches and teammates, Bruins head coach Kyle Taylor and a commons area packed full of students.

“This is an awesome opportunity for our guys to have Jordan come in and help us. We’ll incorporate him quickly,” Taylor said, noting that he had an in-home recruiting visit later that evening. “Regardless of whether that player signs for me, I’ll tell him that he’s the second best kid we got today.”

Jordan, who donned Bruins gear from Coach Taylor, said, “It’s pretty exciting to be able to go to SLCC and be a part of their team too.”

Since the DiGeorge Syndrome diagnosis at three years old where the Andersens were informed that they should prepare for all that Jordan’s condition—which is a depletion of the 22nd chromosome that brings significant intellectual challenges—would entail, they tried to brace themselves and readjust the dreams they had for their son.

“We were told he would never achieve past a fifth-grade education,” dad Jason Andersen said. “And here he is getting ready to graduate high school and attend college.”

Mom Kate Andersen said processing the fact that your child has special needs is similar to a death in the family. “You have to mourn the child that you thought you had and the life you envisioned for them, and then once you’re through the denial and grief you turn your attention to ensuring he lives the happiest, fullest and most comfortable life possible,” she said. “For Jordan, that meant finding ways to manage his constant pain, enrolling him in private therapy to address his various concerns and most importantly to us, finding a place where he felt comfortable, safe, accepted and happy. We’re so fortunate to have found that at Saint John and Juan Diego.”

For hours each week, Jordan would meet with speech, occupational and cognitive therapists – among other specialists until he reached high school. From a physical standpoint, he has endured over a dozen surgeries on everything from reconstructing his soft palate and several bones as well as multiple knee surgeries. He also had two rods and 18 screws inserted in his back when he was in the sixth grade to help with a separate and unrelated challenge, scoliosis, and he still walks with a limp.

Through it all, the Andersens were constantly reminded to temper expectations and avoid pushing Jordan too hard. “The reality of it is that Jordan always looked at his peers and said, ‘I’m going to do this, or I’m going to do that,’ whether that meant he was going to play basketball or read or drive a car,” Kate Andersen said. “We learned early on not to put any limits on Jordan and just take our cues from him. If he wants to do something, we are going to do everything in our power to ensure he has the opportunities to pursue them.”

The reality of that perspective came to a bit of a head when Jordan approached his parents as a ninth grader with the idea of trying out for the Soaring Eagle high school basketball team. “We just wanted to protect him from the emotions of not making the team,” Jason Andersen said. “Fortunately, Coach Trost found him a role as the team manager and he has been able to travel with the team and has, in every way, felt as much a part of the team as any other player.”

And, in a dream come true for Jordan, he did get action on the court at the end of Juan Diego’s game on Senior Night Feb. 11 against Providence Hall. Within his 45 seconds of playing time, Jordan put up a few shots that rimmed out with passes continually coming to him that weren’t just from his own teammates. The Patriots’ players got involved in the action too and both sides of the gym were cheering for Jordan to score. “They just let us keep getting the rebound and giving it back to Jordan to shoot a 3. They even got a couple of rebounds and handed it to him to shoot,” Trost said. “Unfortunately, not one of those shots went in although a lot of them were very close. He made them in practice! Everyone kept asking me why we didn’t have him shoot from closer, but if you know Jordan, you know that he loves 3s, so there was no way he was going to shoot anything else.”

JDCHS Athletic Director Ted Bianco said, “It was neat to go in the Providence Hall locker room after the game and thank them for their sportsmanship towards Jordan and share in the moment that was obviously bigger than basketball. It’s been such a pleasure and honor to have him as part of our basketball program.”

Trost said Jordan’s addition to the team over the past four years has been tremendous. “It’s been so awesome,” he said. “He has helped us out in so many ways. We were able to get him involved and give him more and more responsibilities with water, uniforms, our scorebook and the scoreboard. He lightens the mood which keeps things in perspective for us. It’s been great to see the team embrace him and see what he means to them.”

Mom Kate Andersen said Jordan calls his teammates “my guys” and they truly are just that to him, and the feeling is mutual. “No one would dare tease Jordan at school. These kids just take care of him,” she said, adding that he’s a “local celebrity” at the Draper campus.

At Jordan’s signing, Trost shared a story which shows the honesty that endears so many to him. “A few years ago, we had a center who took an ill-advised three-point shot and at halftime, I was emphasizing the importance of taking good shots and then I paused for a minute,” Trost said. “That’s when Jordan blurted out his teammate’s name and called him out for the poor shot.”

The 2021 Homecoming Royalty finalist said he is currently suffering from another condition – “senioritis” – as he is trying to finish out his high school classwork over the next few weeks.

After graduation, Coach Taylor said he will put him to work helping with SLCC summer basketball camps, handing out water and towels to players, being in charge of jerseys for games and managing stats and the scoreboard. “We’ll also need him to keep track of all of our basketballs as we seem to lose about one a week,” Taylor said. “Jordan will do awesome.”

Jordan said he wants to study history in college, and he’ll be doing it all with a new set of “his guys.”

Whatever Jordan decides to do, his family knows that he’ll simply find a way. “We used to keep telling him that he couldn’t do something, but every single time, he would break the mold and accomplish it,” dad Jason Andersen said. “He has no boundaries.”

“Jordan’s an example that is used in textbooks because what he’s been able to overcome was not supposed to be possible, including getting a degree. Most with DiGeorge syndrome that get this far have certificates,” mom Kate Andersen said. “He’s an anomaly who has continued to defy the odds.”

So, the official signing day for Jordan to move on to college and be part of the SLCC basketball team wasn’t just a day…it was about so much more.