Three years ago, Raphael Jordan and Erick Smith enrolled at John Carroll as freshmen with the hope of helping to rebuild the boys basketball program.
Friends since second grade, Jordan, a point guard, and Smith, a shooting guard, helped lead the Patriots to 63 wins in their first three seasons under new coach Tony Martin.
Earlier this month, Smith committed to Bryant (R.I.) University, a program in its first year of Division I play. On Saturday, Jordan decided to join Smith by pledging to play for the Bulldogs.
"He was just as excited as I was," said Jordan when asked about Smith's reaction to his commitment. "I'm definitely excited for the future. They know we have a history together. We've played together and already have a vibe together."
Jordan, 6'1, said Tim O'Shea and the rest of the Bryant staff first noticed him at an open gym at John Carroll. O'Shea offered Jordan a scholarship soon after Smith committed.
Jordan took an official visit to the Smithfield, R.I., school over the weekend with his family. After touring the campus and meeting with academic officials, Jordan and his family decided to make the commitment before returning to Maryland. With the fall signing period just a few weeks away, Jordan said finding the right fit at this time of the year was "a weight lifted off my shoulders."
"Everybody has their moments [of nervousness], but I would say I was in good hands with Coach Martin because Coach Martin does take care of his players," Jordan said. "John Carroll has come a long way ... and I have nothing but positive words for [the John Carroll] community."
Martin said Jordan will most likely be expected to come in and distribute the ball as a freshman at Bryant.
"Raphael has a gear that very few other players have. He's really explosive when he wants to be," Martin said. "Raphael is a kid that was thrown into the fire from day one [at John Carroll]. His amount of experience is a very valuable [asset]. ... He's a super-quick kid that can get to the basket at will, he's an underrated jump shooter and he's a game-changing defender on the ball."
Jordan said he knows Bryant's transition to DI won't be easy. But his experience in laying the foundation at John Carroll should serve him and Smith well in Rhode Island next year.
"[I'll be] a hard worker that wants to bring winning right away," Jordan said. "It's definitely a big jump. They have a tough schedule this year; Iowa, Maryland, Rutgers. They may have a tough year, but I just want them to have something to look forward to."
Photo of Raphael Jordan courtesy of John Carroll.