CHAMPAIGN — Aaron Jordan had a pretty simple plea against time on social media.
The Illinois senior guard wrote on Twitter: "Dear Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday... please take your time. Sincerely, Aaron."
Four years, two full-time head coaches, one interim head coach, a chance to transfer, and an increased role later, Jordan is wrapping up his career on the Illinois basketball team.
All of those turns in the road led Jordan and the Illini (11-18, 7-11) to 7 p.m. Thursday for his final game at the State Farm Center against Indiana (15-14, 6-12).
Jordan, a Plainfield East grad, has had requests from everyone seeking old photos to use in a video montage, a reminder that he can't quite escape the fact that his time in Champaign is running out, even if he tries to dodge reality.
"I don’t think it’s really sat in that this is my last home game here," Jordan said. "I’ve thought about it and tried not to think about it and keep myself busy.
"It's a remarkable thing. Just being on this journey. The people I met, the things I was able to do, it means something."
Jordan has been around. He's developed from a corner 3-point specialist to a player with more in his offensive arsenal. On defense, head coach Brad Underwood tried to hide Jordan on the opposing team's worst offensive threat last season. Not anymore. Underwood will throw Jordan against anyone.
“He’ll be the guy I’ll never forget because he’s been part of the solution,” Underwood said.
You have free articles remaining.
There's been growth for Jordan, who is fifth on the Illini with 8.1 points per game. He turned in an 10-rebound game against Northwestern on Sunday and has been forced to play in the post on a team that lacks size. But Jordan hasn't complained. In a culture that has seen an increase in transfers amid coaching changes and lack of playing time, Jordan stayed the course.
“That was probably one of the best decisions in my life other than to come here in the first place," he said of not transferring. "That was a difficult time. It was a difficult time for a lot of people, but it was nothing I couldn’t get through."
When Underwood arrived in Champaign prior to last season, he looked at the tape of who was returning, but generally tried to give each player a clean slate without judgement. In Jordan, he saw a player who averaged 1 point per game as a sophomore, shot 16.7 percent from the field and made just six 3-pointers in 6.9 minutes per game.
Jordan worked and developed while carving out a role on the team. He's made more 3s — 96 and counting in the last two seasons — and unofficially leads the team in high-leg-kicks after big plays.
“He showed me the passion you have to play with and the fans that come out a lot, how much love they show to the university," Ayo Dosunmu said.
“When I first came in here, I didn’t know much about college or anything. It’s always good to have seniors here who can help me."
Despite going down memory lane, Jordan knows there's still a game on Thursday night against Indiana (15-14, 6-12). The Hoosiers have won two in a row after defeating Michigan State and Wisconsin, which came after Indiana lost 11 of 12 games from January to February. The wins gave new life to the possibility of making the NCAA Tournament behind do-it-all freshman Romeo Langford.
The game is equally important for Illinois, which is trying to avenge a loss against Indiana earlier in the season and close the regular season on a high note and avoid a Wednesday game in the Big Ten Tournament in the process. There's a feeling that the team still has at least one more run left in the tank. And, they want to send Jordan and the other seniors out of the State Farm Center on a high note.
“His leadership, his commitment, his dedication and his improvement is everything we want this thing to be about," Underwood said of Jordan. "We value his opinions and his ideas and he’s the first one to step up when guys aren’t doing the right things. His leadership has been outstanding.
“Here’s a young man you know is going to make it in whatever endeavor he takes on in his life. He’s one of my guys."