Jordan is building from ground up 

Lester Rubin was faced with a challenge when he was asked to put together a boys’ varsity basketball team at Jordan High School at the start of this school year.

Located in the outer Excelsior District right behind McClaren Park, Jordan is a four-year school with 360 students. Named after Cal professor, poet and activist June Jordan, the school was founded on giving kids an option of attending a school with smaller classes.

"The school was started by a group of teachers and parents from mostly the Excelsior, Bayview and Visitacion Valley who wanted to go to a smaller school," said Matt Alexander, one of the founders and a co-director at the school. "As a small school, we will never have enough students to field a football team, but we still want to have a sports program for the young people and that is why basketball was started."

Therefore, Rubin had to go out and solicit students to play by talking to them during school, putting out fliers and trying to create interest, during the time of the year when most basketball teams are going through preseason conditioning and individual workouts.

"I was asked to help start and build a boys’ basketball program in the competitive AAA," Rubin said. "So I put the word out about the team and held tryouts to get ready for the regular season. I put the team together, but the team did not have the time to set up a preseason schedule like other schools."

Rubin, a teacher, coach and athletic director at Jordan, had 18 kids of various basketball backgrounds come out for the team. A few of the better players in the school did not play, as they did not have the grades to qualify. This, however, did not deter Rubin. He did not have nonconference games to gauge where his team was due to the late start, but he had lots of practice. More importantly, Rubin said was setting up a sports-friendly atmosphere at the school.

"The most important thing I had to do was to set up a sports culture at the school," Rubin said.

A girls’ team was also formed, but it disbanded due to a variety of issues.

So far this season, the boys’ team has stumbled with a 0-13 record, including losing games to Lincoln, Burton, Mission, International Studies Academy and Galileo by more than 40 points each. However, the Jaguars have stayed in some games, losing to powerhouse Lowell by nine points and playing Balboa tough, losing by 14 in a game that was not decided until the last few minutes.

The team is made up of ninth- and 10-graders, most of whom have not played basketball at a highly competitive level. One of the team’s best players, Roland Wiley, a 5-foot-9 sophomore point guard, believes the future is bright for Jordan.

"This year, the season has been hard for us," Wiley said. "We have a good coach in coach Rubin, but we have players who have not played a lot of competitive basketball such as AAU or club basketball. We also started late and this effected us, as many players did not get a feel for how hard the basketball is played in the AAA."

Everyone knows the Jaguars are a work in progress.

"We have not won a game, but we are proud of our guys," Alexander said. "We will have a really strong team in a few years."

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