TAMPA—As a freshman, Kieffer Jordan's main athletic focus was on the swim team and preparing himself for the grueling 500 yard freestyle race.
Three years (and five inches) later, and the 6-foot-10 Jordan was signing his national letter of intent to play basketball for the United States Military Academy at West Point.
Jordan, who came to love basketball during his sophomore year, was one of five Plant Panthers to pledge their allegiance to a college Wednesday, as Nick Ramos committed to play baseball at Indiana University, Laura Hendee committed to being a golfer at the University of Miami, and Claire-Mitchell Andrews and Natalie Franklin, who helped lead the Panthers girls team to the Class 4A state team title last spring, signed to play tennis at Florida International University and Mercer University, respectively.
“It just seemed like the perfect fit,” Hendee said, echoing the thoughts of her fellow Panthers.
For Jordan, an avid hunter and fisherman, part of the appeal of West Point was its scenic location in the mountainous region of New York along the Hudson River. The fact that the two most winnings coaches in Division I basketball history—Bobby Knight (902) and Mike Krzyzewski (900)—are West Point alums didn’t hurt either.
While they were showing me the campus, they were like, ‘Coach K came here’ and were all excited for him,” Jordan said. “He sometimes comes and visits.”
Army assistant coach Jimmy Allen first spotted Jordan warming up at an AAU tournament in Myrtle Beach (the team Jordan’s squad, the Tampa Titans, was set to play ended up forfeiting) and liked his shooting abilities, Jordan said. And his current coach, Plant’s Michael Slonaker, speaks highly of his ability to play defense as well. As a junior, Jordan led Plant with 46 blocks last season.
“He’s got good timing,” said Slonaker, a former assistant at Campbell (N.C.) University. “If he doesn’t block a shot, he adjusts the shot.”
“He’s got a lot of potential,” Slonaker added. “That’s what everyone saw while recruiting him, his potential is so high.