Finding balance as a student-athlete
Ask senior Jordan Johnson which is more important – school or basketball – and he will hesitate for a second, then give a hearty laugh.
“I guess it depends on who you ask,” he says with a smile. “My dad played professional basketball overseas, so he loves the game. But for my mom and Coach (Kendal) Wallace (Head Men’s Basketball Coach), it is all about my education.”
Jordan, who plays forward for the Panthers, easily handles both because he is excelling on the court and in the classroom. After transferring from Belmont Abbey College in North Carolina, he has made the Dean's List every semester and holds a 3.7 grade point average.
This year, he received USA South Academic All-Conference honors and was awarded the Panther’s Glenn Simpson Academic Award, given to the men's basketball player with the highest GPA.
A business management major from Atlanta, Jordan says his parents have been wonderful examples for him.
“They both went to college, and my mom has a master’s degree. She’s worked for the state for more than 20 years. School comes first for her, so she loves LaGrange College. She likes that I can talk with my professors any time I need them, and that my coaches are always telling us that our grades are important.
“I learned how to be an honorable man from my father. Ever since I was young, I’ve seen my dad treat people the right way – now I try to be like him and treat everyone as fairly as possible.”
It was Jordan’s close relationship with his parents that led him to LaGrange.
“I originally attended Belmont Abbey College, but it was a seven-hour trip to get home,” he says. “That was just too far for me, so I started looking for a good school closer to home.”
He knew he didn’t want to go to a large university because he wanted to be more than just a student number.
“I wanted to find a place where I could get involved with different organizations and where I could make an impact.”
One day, he was playing basketball in a gym near his home when he was approached by David McGreal, Associate Head Coach at LaGrange.
“He was there scouting someone else and spotted me – and here I am.”
Jordan says playing Panther basketball has been an "awesome experience."
“I met Coach Wallace my first day here,” he says. “He is an amazing man who wants us to be the best we can be. He wants us to play well, but at the same time, he wants us to be great representatives for the school. He is always telling us that we are also representing ourselves and our families, and to do that properly, we have to get it done in the classroom.”
That is exactly what Jordan is doing. He recently was inducted into Delta Mu Delta, the business honor society, and is concentrating on preparing himself for his career.
“I’m looking to get into expedited sales in the transportation industry, like my dad. That isn’t something many people are familiar with, but a lot of the freight trucks you see running up and down the road are coordinated by someone in expedited sales.”
Jordan says he has been given many opportunities at LaGrange to lay the groundwork for his future.
“I’ve gotten internships with the help of my professors, who have contacts in many areas,” he says. “I’ve also had invaluable workshops that have helped me.”
He says he’s also received a great deal of help from the college’s Career Development Center.
“I went there to get some help preparing my resume, but I ended up getting so much more. Diana Goldwire (CDC director) sat down with me, and we talked about what I’ve done and what I want to do. She helped me a lot, and I’ve actually gotten some offers.”
But when it comes to his dream job, Jordan goes back to something he’s loved his entire life.
“Honestly, I would love to teach basketball to kids every day,” he says. “Since I’ve been at LaGrange, the team has done different service projects, and one of them was at a local boys home. We did mini-practices with the kids. Just seeing the enjoyment they got out of it really moved me.”