Pint-sized air Jordan lands at Beaver Lake
January 25, 2011
By Christopher Huber
Basketball whiz Jordan McCabe has a ball in national spotlight
The ball is almost too low to the ground to see it move, but you can hear the double-time pitter-patter as it rattles between floor and fingertips over and over.
Jordan McCabe is not just dribbling one, but two basketballs — in sync, out of sync, up and down, side to side — at the same time. It takes a second to see how he does it, but by the time you catch up, he’s already switching it up.
This time, he dribbles the right ball in front while taking another one around his left leg and through from the back, and then visa versa. The balls go faster, slow down and then go airborne, as he juggles them. Then, comes the tennis ball.
Skills earn notice
Jordan, a sixth-grader at Beaver Lake Middle School, has recently found national acclaim for his uncanny basketball and dribbling skills. College and professional basketball teams have invited him to perform at their halftime shows. He appeared on “The Ellen DeGeneres Show” on Jan. 11 and has since been invited to participate in the NBA All-Star Weekend festivities, and at the Golden State Warriors’ and Georgia Tech halftime shows. In addition, ESPN invited him to its Bristol, Conn., headquarters.
Videos of his mind-boggling routine have gone viral on YouTube.
“I saw this video, and I was like, ‘Bring him here. Let’s see this guy,’” DeGeneres said while interviewing Jordan on the show.
How it started
Media and sports organizations started noticing Jordan a couple of years ago, while he was still living in Wisconsin, he and his father Matt McCabe said. He performed at various college basketball halftime shows. The McCabe family moved here about nine months ago. Most recently, Jordan performed at the Dec. 15 University of Washington game.
His routine included a mixture of rapidly dribbling two balls simultaneously, rotating them, dribbling them between his legs, juggling them and then incorporating a tennis ball. It all has taken a lot of training. The now famous routine began as just a warm-up Jordan did before basketball games. In the past two years, he has merged those skills with his advanced overall skills to create quite a threat on the court.
“He was a good dribbler, but wanted to be known as a good basketball player,” Matt McCabe said. “It’s just all gotta come together.”
Jordan was born into basketball. It started at age 5, with Matt McCabe coaching him in basketball techniques and teaching him ball-handling skills at home and at the clinics he ran.
“There’s never been a point in my life where I said, ‘To heck with this,’” Jordan said. “It’s always been in my life.”
Training has paid off
For the past few years, Jordan has been training with Jason Otter at his camps in the Detroit area. Otter even travels to Seattle to work with Jordan a couple of times per year.
“He’s got a high basketball IQ. He’s a little bit ahead of the game,” Otter said. “This gets people fired up — what he’s doing. That’s just a small part of being a great player. The key with anything is consistency.”
His work with Otter has vastly improved his game. Jordan could do most of the dribbling skills people see in his videos about three years ago, Otter said.
“I realized I could take this somewhere. He has really taken my game to a whole different level,” Jordan said about Otter. “It’s the little things that took it to another level. Not just the ball handling.”
He has these skills, but he gives back. The family has volunteered at the Union Gospel Mission in Seattle and Jordan has started working with younger players to help them develop their basketball skills. He’s also a straight-A student, his parents said.
“He’s got that drive,” Matt McCabe said.
Jordan works out about two to three hours per day after school and homework, his father added. Although Matt McCabe works with Jordan about once a month in the gym to hone skills, Jordan does it the rest himself.
“It’s gotta definitely be from within you,” Jordan said.
Hard work and humility
And from within him also seems to come a sense of humility. Performing and interviewing at so many big events and shows makes him a bit tired, his parents said. But Jordan takes it in stride.
There are different ways to look at his acclaim, he said. He likes the attention for a routine he basically developed for pre-game warm-ups. He could get lazy and coast on notoriety from the current popularity. But he wants to go pro someday — be like Steve Nash or John Stockton. He stays focused on working hard toward his goal.
“I watch players whose game I can evolve around,” Jordan said. “Seeing what they accomplish is enough drive for me.”
And the key for a guy who will never have a 40-inch vertical is reading defenders and being as efficient as possible with footwork and moves.
“I got two choices from here: to coast or push myself to work harder,” Jordan said. “This is all great, but I look to the future and what could be if I let this drive me.”
Christopher Huber: 392-6434, ext. 242, or firstname.lastname@example.org. Comment at www.issaquahpress.com.