J-Mac Is Back!|
Jan. 12, 2016
by Katie Ryan
During the 2014-15 season, Trojan fans watched then-freshman guard Jordan McLaughlin light up the court as he stepped into a leadership role early in his career.
McLaughlin was named to the Pac-12 All-Freshman team while averaging 12.1 points, 3.0 rebounds and 4.5 assists per game. Despite missing 10 games, he led the team in minutes per game (31.6) was second in assists (100), steals (33) and free throws made (60) and was third in scoring average and three-pointers made. Unfortunately, McLaughlin’s season was cut short due to two torn labrums.
However, after months of rehabilitation and workouts, J-Mac is back!
McLaughlin’s injuries forced his freshman season to come to a sudden stop. “During the first Pac-12 game, I hurt one shoulder, and during the season I hurt the other one when we played Oregon here,” he said. “The idea was for me to sit out the rest of the season to get the surgeries done early. That way, I would have all summer to rehab and become stronger; that’s what I’ve been able to do.”
McLaughlin scheduled his surgeries at the end of the season, one right after the other.
“They put a screw in each side, so I have two screws in there,” he said. “What they do is hold the shoulders in place when I go to swipe down on the ball. Because when I swiped down on the ball, that’s when they would dislocate. We wanted to do the right one first because that’s my shooting arm and that way I could start to shoot quicker.”
Then the rehabbing process began.
“Over the summer, I got a lot of band work in, getting my shoulders stronger and strengthening the muscles around them,” he said. “Otherwise, I was still lifting weights to get my whole body stronger.”
In addition to getting his body back to prime competition condition, he continued to make sure that his game would not be affected when it was time for his return.
“Whenever we had workouts, I was here,” McLaughlin said. “During optional workouts, I’m always here and making sure I get it in. I viewed summer like it was a job, and I was in the gym eight hours a day.”
McLaughlin was able to work on his skills and perform non-contact drills. He also spent a significant amount of time in the film room.
“I watched a lot of film and when we played other teams, I watched their point guard play and saw what they would do and figured out where I can get better for myself,” he said. “That way, I would be able to put my teammates in the right position when my time came to play again.”
McLaughlin continued to observe as the Trojans traveled overseas to Italy to compete against Italian teams and experience a new culture.
““It was fun,” he said. “Going to another country is something that I think every person should be able to do. The style of living was different there, and it was a fun experience. Especially being with all of the guys. That trip brought us all so much closer together.”
This was McLaughlin’s first trip out of the country. He enjoyed visiting the Sistine Chapel and eating his rotation of lasagna, pizza and gelato. While the Trojans were playing, he had to embrace his new role.
“It was tough, but I was able to lead from the bench,” he said. “I was able to talk to the freshmen and teach them a few things when we were out there playing. I think me working with them got them a little bit more prepared for what they’re seeing now.”
“They’re great,” he said. “I always used to talk to them before they got here. Whenever they needed something, they would hit me up or text me and I would tell them what they needed to know. We communicate really well on and off the court.”
After countless hours of rehab, film and workouts, McLaughlin was healthy enough to return and open the 2015-16 with the Trojans. Amidst his injuries, he doesn’t believe that his style of play has changed.
“I haven’t heard anyone saying that you’re being hesitant on anything or being scared of this and that,” McLaughlin said. “Whenever I go out and play, I just leave it all out on the floor and play as hard as I can. I’m still playing how I was when I first came here: Aggressive, athletic, smart, just a little bit of everything. I just try to do whatever it takes to win.”
During the period of time he sat out, McLaughlin learned a significant amount about his own game by watching his team play. He learned that in order to be a good point guard, you have to be another coach, both on and off the court.
“When you’re off of the court you have to be a coach, and on the court, you’re basically the coach on the floor,” he said. “That’s what the position is, another coach.”
McLaughlin is once again showcasing his elite point guard skills as he leads the Trojans again this season. He currently leads the team in minutes (538) and assists (90) and is tied for the team lead in steals (25) and in average points per game (12.9) His only set-back this season was when he broke his nose in USC’s game versus Xavier.
“A guy was dribbling and kind of just chipped me with his off arm,” he said. “I felt it break and I kept playing with it for the last three minutes of the half. I got it checked out at halftime and the doctor said it was broken. He said I could play and it was up to me, but it was something we didn’t want to risk because it’s such a long season. They had a couple of masks shipped out that night to me so I was able to get a little feel for it in practice the next day before we played.”
McLaughlin was able to lose the mask in USC’s game versus Lafayette on Dec. 23. In that game, he recorded his first double-double of the season with 14 points and a school-record 16 assists, breaking Brandon Granville’s mark of 15 set in 2000.
While the facemask was a limited-time accessory for McLaughlin, he has always been known for his flashy style on the court. Last season, he was recognized for his neon yellow shoes. This year, he thinks his hair will be his style focus of the season.
“A lot of people have been talking about my haircut,” McLaughlin said. “One of our student-managers gave me the nickname Young Simba. That’s when I changed my name on Twitter and Instagram to Young Simba because my hair kind of reminded him of the Lion King when Simba was a young lion. Other people say it looks like a Trojan haircut from the side.”
Rantnow.com has even named McLaughlin as having the best hair in college basketball.
“My mom is a hair stylist so that’s where I get all of my designs from,” he said. “My mom styles my hair and my sister, Amber, colors it. Last year it was red. This year it’s gold. Next year, who knows?”
McLaughlin’s hair of many colors isn’t the only thing we will have to look forward to throughout the season. He believes that the Trojans have a lot in store for conference play.
“I think it’s going to be a big season. We’ve gotten off to a good start so far and we just hope to continue that. I believe the hard work that we put in over summer is paying off. We’re expecting big things come conference time.”