In the fall of 2015, I sidled up next to Hononegah girls basketball coach Randy Weibel and asked him a salient question.
"Who's going to be your leading scorer this year, anyway?"
"A freshman, probably," came his response.
Now, if you know Randy really well, you'll know he's a frequent user of sarcasm. In fact, if you've met Randy once and had an extended conversation with him, you'll know he's a frequent user of sarcasm.
So after laughing out loud, I turned to assistant coach Matt Simpson. He confirmed Randy's belief. Even with older players like Ellie Welsh, Meagan Matuska and Berkley Byron in the fold, the expectations on a wiry freshman named Jordan King were very high.
It wasn't halfway through her freshman season that Weibel amended his thoughts.
"I think she can be the best player who has ever come through here," Weibel told me.
Friday night, Jordan broke the school's all-time scoring record. Monday afternoon, she formalized her commitment to play for Marquette.
As it turns out, Randy's basketball talent evaluation matches his skill in sarcasm usage. He was right, about it all.
King led the Indians to a sectional final in her freshman year. I loved watching that team. They went a perfect 16-0 in conference play before running up against a Huntley team featuring an Illinois-bound Ali Andrews that was too much to handle in the post.
She came into her own in her sophomore season, winning NIC-10 MVP honors as the Indians played second fiddle to a 30-1 Boylan team. She averaged over 20 points per game, and began assuming a leadership role far beyond her status as an underclassmen.
The scholarship offers began rolling in, King kept rolling through her summer AAU season, and was clearly the conference's best player as the Indians again placed second to Boylan. My favorite ever girls basketball game came last year, when a hyped, packed crowd jammed in the gym at Hononegah to watch the Indians and the Titans do battle. The outcome wasn't the preferred one, but the place was electric, and hopefully can be reproduced this year (with a different result).
Over the summer, she made it official: She was going to be a Golden Eagle. Monday, she put pen to paper.
So, that's the story of Jordan King. Have a good day, everyone.
Well, actually, you know what? Hang on. Let me tell you about the Jordan I know. The one that I've gotten to know over countless conversations over the past four years. The one that I've seen play a ton. The one that I've seen practice, hard. The one that I know supports her sister cheerleading and swimming.
The one who pushes her teammates. The one who deflects credit and shares successes. The one who's harder on herself than anyone else when she has a tough night.
My favorite kids, the ones that I live for in this job, are the ones that, when it's all said and done, just turn out to be friends that just happen to play sports. I like talking to Jordan after games. And, really, I have to. But the conversations after practices, at football games, over text, whatever, those are my favorite. Because while the subject is often hoops, it's talking ball with a friend, not an athlete that I cover.
Special is a word often used to describe Jordan. It's used a lot by those who have seen her play. And it's true. If you know basketball at all, you know that after watching Jordan for five minutes, she's special. There's not really anything on the floor she can't do.
But for those of us lucky enough to know the Jordan away from the bright lights of game night, well, we know that special describes her off the court as well.
I can't wait to see what the future holds for my friend.