Even with the benefit of hindsight, Jourdan Stickler’s decision to leave Maryland for Virginia last year seems like a no-brainer.
Stickler had wrapped up a solid sophomore season at Annapolis Area Christian when he decided that he wanted to face better competition and receive more exposure. With that in mind, the 6-foot-4 shooting guard reached out to Steve Smith, the veteran boys basketball coach at Oak Hill Academy in Mouth of Wilson, Va. Messages were exchanged, and Stickler suddenly found himself scrimmaging against Oak Hill players and eventually accepting a spot on the team for the 2010-11 high school season.
“It definitely was surreal,” Stickler said. “It definitely was an eye opener because I had never really played on that level. So it took me a while to get acclimated. I started playing as good or better than some of the guys on the team. [I thought], ‘Wow, I’m actually playing here at Oak Hill.’ You’re looking at all the NBA players from there, and the future NBA players on our team. It was a great learning experience.”
But despite Stickler’s excellent hoops education at the national powerhouse, minutes were scarce and his production was limited. There was no guarantee that senior year would be better for Stickler, which led to his return to Maryland and subsequent enrollment at Annapolis High, where he has emerged as one of the most explosive scorers in the Baltimore area. Stickler will lead the Panthers tonight against J.M. Bennett in the second round of the Class 3A state playoffs.
For Stickler, the return home for his senior year has been a blessing.
“I felt like for my senior year, I definitely needed to be at home,” said Stickler, who also considered transferring to IMG Academy in Florida. “[Everything’s] going good. We finished out strong. We’re on a winning streak right now. I think it’s like seven games. The team is feeling real strong going into the playoffs. I feel like we can really make a run there.”
Stickler said he played about 10 minutes per game for Oak Hill. On a team that featured Quinn Cook (Duke), Daniel Gomis (Oregon State), Sidiki Johnson (Providence) and several other future Division I players, Stickler’s role was to be a spot-up shooter off the bench. While Stickler could sense that his game was improving rapidly in practice, that improvement “didn’t reflect” in his playing time. But Stickler said Smith -- who planned to recruit more seniors for the 2011-12 team -- completely “understood” his decision to transfer.
Soon after returning to Annapolis, Stickler met Eric Elston, a program coordinator at the high school and local basketball coach. Elston invited Stickler to play in a men’s summer league at Annapolis’ Truxtun Park, in addition to him playing with the Under Armour-sponsored Baltimore’s Finest AAU team. Elston was immediately impressed with Stickler’s game.
“Jourdan just has this natural knack to score. I haven’t seen that in a long time,” Elston said. “He still needs to learn to create a shot for himself. But he’s an efficient scorer that plays both ends of the floor. He’s very focused and has a high basketball IQ. He’s just one of those gridiron kids you really don’t see much anymore. You’ll see him score 37 points, but you won’t even realize it because he’s such an unselfish player.”
Perhaps the highlight of Stickler’s senior year so far was a home game against Upper Room Academy, a team from North Carolina featuring Rodney Purvis, a five-star prospect and N.C. State signee. Purvis scored 31, while Stickler poured in 25 (including five 3-pointers) to help Annapolis to a 90-83 win. Junior point guard Delaszo Smith scored a season-high 37 for the Panthers.
Stickler, who is averaging 25.8 points and 8.8 rebounds, is focused completely on his playoff run with Annapolis. He’s hoping that his senior season raises his recruiting profile. Stickler said he’s hearing most frequently from The Citadel, Jacksonville, Mississippi Valley State and Stony Brook. Maryland assistant coach Scott Spinelli, according to Elston and Stickler, showed up at an Annapolis practice last week.
“Maryland said they’re looking for shooters,” Stickler said. “That’s pretty much what I do. I’m a shooter. I was told a lot of teams are looking for a shooter. If you can just shoot the ball well from 3, you can potentially do some damage.”
Stickler said he would “love to stay at home” to play college basketball, and he’s ready to make a commitment when the right opportunity comes his way.
“I’m not really sure [I would walk-on at Maryland] because I don’t really know about the tuition there or anything like that. It could be a stretch on my family,” Stickler said. “But definitely, any way that I could play at Maryland, I would definitely explore those options, most definitely. I watch their games and they really do need consistent shooters from beyond the arc. They have [Terrell] Stoglin, but he kind of does it all.”
Elston is looking forward to working more with Stickler after the season. Elston coordinated the U.S. Elite team’s trip to Italy last year, with Patterson’s Aquille Carr and St. Frances’ Daquan Cook leading the Americans to a gold medal. Stickler will suit up for the U.S. team this spring in Milan. With high school playoffs, a European trip and college recruiting on the horizon, Stickler has plenty to look forward to in the coming weeks.
“I’m keeping all my options open right now,” he said.