Make us your home page

Get the quickest, smartest news, analysis and photos from the Bucs game emailed to you shortly after the final whistle.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Deafness can't keep athlete off the court

The bounce of the ball, swish of a net, buzz of the scoreboard — all are sounds taken for granted at a basketball game.

Not so for Clearwater High School's Jordan Jernigan.

Born without the ability to hear, Jernigan has had cochlear implants since he was 18 months old. The devices, which contain an external microphone that Jernigan calls his processors, act as permanent hearing aids. Despite the artificial help, Jernigan still has problems hearing everyday things.

"He handles it very well," Clearwater coach Tom Shaneyfelt said. "It helps everyone that he's just a great kid."

The rising senior hasn't let his deafness stop him from pursuing athletics. Though football proved difficult, he has been playing basketball since eighth grade.

Jernigan played for Pinellas Park High's junior varsity team his sophomore year. Before his junior year, Jernigan transferred to Clearwater where he made the varsity squad as a center.

Jernigan appeared in only 10 games for the Tornadoes, who went 13-14 last year. In his limited time on the floor during his season, Jernigan scored seven points. Highlighting his season was a four-point performance against his former school.

Jernigan faces obvious obstacles every time he enters a game. His deafness adds a level of difficulty for coaches drawing up plays and referees trying to officiate. Jernigan and his coaching staff have come up with creative ways to overcome those obstacles.

Before every game, Shaneyfelt will alert the officiating crew of the unique situation. As far as running plays, Shaneyfelt and Jernigan have developed their own form of sign language to avoid confusion on the court.

"Offensively, if we have a play called Carolina, I'll just make the shape of a C with my hand," said Shaneyfelt, who has been coaching basketball (girls, then boys) at Clearwater for more than 20 years. "We just make a letter or symbol, some kind of motion that we know we've established as a signal for the play that we're going to run."

His implants make communication with teammates and coaches on the bench effortless, and the sign language works well when he's on the court — as was evident in a recent summer league game.

But that ease doesn't always extend beyond his team.

"Sometimes I can't hear the whistle when it's a dead ball and I keep fighting for it," Jernigan said. "Whistles, referees talking to me, it's extremely difficult and it's frustrating."

Clearwater's practices run smoothly for Jernigan and Shaneyfelt thanks to open communication between the two.

"(Shaneyfelt) will tell me what we're doing before we start," Jernigan said. "I like to practice without my processor because it prepares me for the real game."

"Every once in a while, I question whether he has typical teenage selective hearing," Shaneyfelt joked. "But he's a great kid."

Jernigan looks to be a rallying point for the Tornadoes and deaf athletes.

"I've met a lot of people who are deaf and they like playing basketball but they don't have enough confidence," Jernigan said. "I try to show them that you can do something if you have enough heart and desire."

Deafness can't keep athlete off the court 07/01/14 [Last modified: Monday, July 7, 2014 10:33am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Rays blow lead in ninth, lose in 10 to Rangers (w/video)

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — Rays manager Kevin Cash liked the way Alex Cobb was competing Friday night. He liked the way the hard contact made by the Rangers batters went away after the second or third inning. So as the game headed toward the ninth, there was no doubt in Cash's mind that sending Cobb back to the mound was …

    Rays starter Alex Cobb can hardly believe what just happened as he leaves the game in the ninth after allowing a leadoff double then a tying two-run homer to the Rangers’ Shin-Soo Choo.
  2. Rays journal: Steven Souza Jr. gets extra day off to let hip heal

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — RF Steven Souza Jr. ran in rightfield before batting practice under the watchful gaze of the Rays training staff and manager Kevin Cash. Afterward, Souza told Cash he could use one more day of rest before playing on the left hip he strained Wednesday in Oakland.

    Tampa Bay Rays second baseman Brad Miller (13) gets a hug from right fielder Steven Souza Jr. (20) after his solo home run in the fourth inning of the game between the Texas Rangers and the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla. on Friday, July 21, 2017.
  3. Rays vs. Rangers, 7:10 p.m. Saturday, Tropicana Field

    The Heater

    Tonight: vs. Rangers

    7:10, Tropicana Field

    TV/radio: FS1; 620-AM, 680-AM (Spanish)

  4. Roger Mooney's takeaways from Friday's Rays-Rangers game

    The Heater

    Looks like LF Corey Dickerson is coming out of his funk at the plate — .186 average in past 16 games entering Friday. He had two hits Wednesday in Oakland and three hits Friday against the Rangers. Okay, one was an infield hit that bounced high in front of the plate, but the other was a long home run to …

  5. History shows Ole Miss upheaval tough to overcome


    After Mississippi football coach Hugh Freeze resigned Thursday, with the opener six weeks away, offensive line coach Matt Luke is being thrown into an interim head coaching position. He will try to save a season that already had been scarred by a self-imposed bowl ban for NCAA violations.

    After coach Jim Tressel resigned, Ohio State went 6-7, including a loss to Florida in the Gator Bowl, in 2011.