DeKALB – From the day he was born, Jordan Threloff was slated to be a basketball player.
“My parents put a little mini-hoop in my crib,” the lifelong DeKalb native said. “I’ve always had a natural love for it. That’s more than just being good at it. But being good definitely helps and fuels my love for the game.”
Threloff, whose father played basketball in college and mother played in high school, is a junior center on the Northern Illinois University men’s basketball team this season. This is his first year back in his hometown after transferring from Illinois State, where he spent the last three years.
Growing up, Threloff played football and soccer before focusing his attention on basketball, an effort which definitely paid off. As a four-year varsity starter, the 2010 DeKalb High School graduate recorded more than 1,500 career points and 1,000 career rebounds, leading the Barbs to back-to-back conference championships his junior and senior years. Among his many honors, he was twice named the Daily Chronicle’s Player of the Year, as well as honorable all-state, all-conference and all-area his junior and senior years.
After receiving many offers, he accepted a scholarship to attend Illinois State. After red-shirting his freshman year, Threloff played two seasons with the Red Birds before transferring to NIU this season so he could be near his mother, who was suffering health problems. She died two months after his move.
Threloff talked hoops last week with MidWeek reporter Doug Oleson.
MidWeek: Where you always tall?
JT: I was always the tallest kid growing up. In third grade, I wore a 9-and-a-half shoe. That was a pretty good indication.
MW: Did a lot of colleges recruit you?
JT: It started with Coach (Rob) Judson here at NIU. When he left, Coach (Ricardo) Patton recruited me. ...There was Illinois State early on, then Northwestern and DePaul. There were a lot of schools. Once my name got out there, a lot of out-of-state schools starting calling. I don’t know how many contacted me. I had like 18 offers by the time I graduated from high school. I was very blessed to have so many offers.
MW: How did you choose?
JT: I went with Illinois State because I loved their coach, (Tim) Jenkovich. Him and I built a great relationship. But it started with Coach Judson; he was an assistant there. I visited there a couple of times and I really got to know them. They had a great team and were really great guys, as well.
MW: How many visits are you allowed?
JT: Five official visits, but unofficially you can have as many as you want. You can only visit one school once, so I couldn’t take five visits to NIU if I wanted to.
MW: Did you have to sit out a year at NIU because you transferred?
JT: No, I played right away. I got the hardship waiver right away.
MW: How has everything been going?
JT: It’s been great. I love Coach (Mark) Montgomery and the staff. They’ve been nothing but amazing, helping me get back here to DeKalb. My teammates have all been so accepting and supportive.
MW: What’s it like playing at the Convo Center again?
JT: It’s an amazing feeling. I have gotten pretty familiar with the Convo with the Castle Challenge games and going to summer camp there. In a way, it doesn’t really feel like college, because I’ve grown up with it my entire life. And at the same time, it’s a completely different aspect from what I’ve felt here at DeKalb (High School).
MW: Since you grew up here, is there more pressure on you with NIU?
JT: Yes and no. There definitely is. They (fans) expect me to do a lot more. Hopefully, they expect this team to do a lot more than we have in the past couple of years. Hopefully, as we get better as a team, that will bring more people out.
MW: Do you think local fans are coming out just to see you?
JT: I don’t really know, but I hope they keep coming. I know people in this area want to see good basketball. They drew 7,000 last year for the Castle Challenge. We want to bring those crowds here and get that excitement back for NIU basketball.
MW: Considering the success the football program has had, are other NIU sports programs in their shadow?
JT: We definitely are. We are trying to create our own light and make this a dominant school in basketball and football so it’s not just a football school.
MW: Any last thoughts?
JT: This has been an amazing experience. I’ve been blessed to have such great teammates and coaches. I’ve been having so much fun here. We have hopes to play in Cleveland (for the Mid-American Conference championship). We’ve gotten a taste of it.