Jourdain’s Jump; Temple’s Nick Jourdain prepares for bigger role in second season
Photo Courtesy of: @TUMBBHoops
In the summer of 2018, local AAU program New Jersey Playaz featured two current Temple basketball players on its roster: Khalif Battle and Nick Jourdain.
Battle was easy to spot as a likely collegiate star. He was one of the team’s premier scorers and saw plenty of time on the floor. Jourdain, on the other hand, did not play a ton for the team and was a center with limited game outside of the restricted area.
Embracing his game as a work in progress, Jourdain has turned himself into a wing that can still hold his own down on the block.
“He was one of the last guys off the bench (in AAU),” Battle said. “To see where he is right now, where he’s (going to) play major minutes and have a major impact, I’m really happy.”
The next leap for Jourdain will be holding down that major role within a collegiate program that’s been just as much of a project as he is. The 6-8 forward spent his summer honing his defensive craft and trying to become the “lockdown shooter” that this team needs.
His growth into a wing player that will be counted on to defend multiple positions is unlike any role he has ever had before, but it’s one that has been years in the making.
“Once I graduated high school, all I really did was drop off dunks and block shots. There was really nothing more to my game that I could do at a high level,” Jourdain said. “Slowly at prep school, I started progressing. My versatility, my shooting, my ball handling, getting stronger …. Once I got to Temple, it all amplified. It all happened so fast.”
Since arriving on campus, Temple head coach Aaron McKie said that he’s seen the most growth in the awareness of Jourdain’s game, emphasizing that the freshman forward needs to simplify the game with the ball in his hands. The adjustment, Jourdain says, is all about working within another new role.
It’s why the Clifton, NJ. native didn’t see many minutes in the early part of his first season with the program. McKie wanted him to watch and bulk up a little bit before he was “thrown into the fire” of facing the experienced, tough frontcourts of the American Athletic Conference.
Jourdain feels as though he’s seeing one of his fiercest opponents every single day in practice. Fellow frontcourt mate Sage Tolbert, who is as strong as anyone the Owls may face this season, has forced Jourdain to assert himself on the floor during practice.
“Now, I think instead of taking the elbows, he’s throwing the elbows,” Battle said of Jourdain, commending how tough he’s gotten in the last year. “Toughness wins games and I think he brings toughness to our team.”
To project what Jourdain’s role may look like this season, looking back at his three starts at the end of last season offers some good insight.
The tenants of his game, quality defense (two blocks per game) and rebounding (3.7 per game) were there, but nothing shone through quite like his offensive growth. He averaged seven points per game on 7 of 13 shooting (53.8%) and 5 of 7 from beyond the arc (71.4%) in that three-game stretch.
“He’s got a pretty good feel for the game,” McKie said. “We just have to get him to play on-balance for us and use his legs more. He can play inside for us, he can play outside for us and does a really good job.”
Coupling his shotmaking ability and with his traditional work down low both offer a complete package as a modern day power forward. The skillset could help ease the pressure of scoring and facilitating on a young backcourt that doesn’t have a ton of game experience together.
However, both player and coach alike will tell you that he’s still growing as he looks to create opportunities for himself and others. McKie said that Jourdain can get “excited” and that the staff is preaching for him to “slow things down” on the floor — a common problem in the adjustment to the collegiate level.
“I used my feel for the game in different ways,” Jourdain said. “This year, now that I’m getting on the ball more and making plays at the four spot, I’ll be able to really show my passing ability.”
Defensively, one aspect of Jourdain’s game that McKie highlighted during media availability was his ability to show on screens, using his ability and athleticism to attack opposing playmakers in the pick-and-roll. Being able to do that will offer Temple’s defense a reprieve from some of the explosive guards of the American getting to the rim and shows just how effective Jourdain can be guarding one-through-five on the floor.
Jourdain said he got a ton of one-on-one practice over the summer with Battle, Quincy Ademokoya, Jahlil White and Tai Strickland, all of which offer a chance for him to work on guarding smaller guys. It’s the exact blueprint for the modern-day “four” in basketball, a true difference maker all over the floor.
It’s not exactly the role someone may have projected for Jourdain a few years ago. However, he was always certain he’d find his way to this spot.
“I always had that belief in myself,” Jourdain said. “It’s just crazy how it all came together.”