Make us your home page
Instagram

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

Loading...
  1. Don't expect to see protests in college football any time soon

    College

    The whispers have segued to chatter. In time, it may evolve into rumblings, or even a groundswell.

    Following the national anthem, helicopters fly over Ohio Stadium in a missing-man formation in tribute to John Glenn before a game between Army and Ohio State in Columbus, Ohio, on Saturday, Sept. 16, 2017. (Barbara J. Perenic/Columbus Dispatch/TNS)
  2. Lightning to retire Vinny Lecavalier's No. 4 in February

    Blogs

    When Marty St. Louis became the first Lightning player to have his jersey retired back in January, it was hard not to think that former captain Vinny Lecavalier would be the next one.

    Vinny Lecavalier takes the ice before a 2010 game against the Florida Panthers.
  3. Rick and Tom podcast: Worst-Case (Keenum) scenario

    Bucs

    Rick Stroud and Tom Jones break down the Bucs' 34-17 loss to the Vikings on Sunday in Minneapolis in their latest podcast.

    Minnesota Vikings quarterback Case Keenum (7) scrambles away from Bucs defensive end William Gholston (92) during the first half. [LOREN ELLIOTT   |   Times]
  4. J.T. Brown of Lightning respects NFL players' protests

    Blogs

    There was something in the air in the NFL on Sunday. President Trump’s comments and tweets on NFL player protests achieved the effect of creating more of them. Lightning winger J.T. Brown was asked about it as he stood in a hall at Amalie Arena, a few hours before the Lightning played the Florida Panthers in …

    J.T. Brown, one of about 30 African-American players in the National Hockey League, would not rule out that he might protest.
  5. Cannon Fodder podcast: Bucs-Vikings review

    Bucs

    Greg Auman looks back on Sunday's 34-17 loss to the Minnesota Vikings in the latest edition of our Bucs Cannon Fodder podcast.

    Quarterback Jameis Winston is sacked during the first half of the Bucs' 34-17 loss to the Vikings. [LOREN ELLIOTT   |   Times]