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The Air Is His Parent

"I never tried to, you know, switch hands on layups or anything like that." Scott Powers

Marcus Jordan has a bit of Michael Jordan in him. But most sons take something from their fathers. Marcus took a love for a basketball from his pops. It just so happens his pops is considered the greatest to ever play the game. And now the high school senior wonders whether college coaches will see him, his father or something in-between.

"I think that is a concern for him," says mom, Juanita. "I think he feels he doesn't want to be treated any different because of his name. He wants to be treated like any recruit."

So the initials are the same, Marcus wears Nike and Jordan gear from head to toe—he says he'd probably be grounded if he sported anything Reebok—and he does possess a lot of his dad's swagger, but let the similarities end there. Marcus Jordan is Marcus Jordan and Michael Jordan will always be, well, MJ.

As Marcus is set to launch his senior season at Whitney Young, a Chicago public school only a mile away from the United Center, his goals are lofty: He hopes to win Illinois' Mr. Basketball, be selected for the McDonald's All-American game and receive scholarship offers from the nation's top programs. And those are his expectations not because he's Michael Jordan's son; those are his expectations because he believes he can achieve them.

"I don't want to be MJ junior," Marcus says. "I want to be Marcus Jordan. I never tried to go out and copy a move my dad did."

Still, Marcus is smart enough to realize he can learn plenty from his dad. He just isn't trying to take off from the free-throw line or dunk on Mutumbo. "I definitely watched tapes," he admits, "and I figured out how to get to the lane quicker, how to expose my man, stuff like that. I never tried to, you know, switch hands on layups or anything like that."

So how good is Marcus Jordan?

Over the last year, the answer has changed. As a junior, he was an above-average high school player. He was strong to the rim and knew how to finish. He seemed like a great fit for most mid-major programs, but probably not good enough to crack the top tier. This summer perceptions changed. He developed a consistent jumper, better handles and showed during a few key events he could compete with the elite recruits. Recruiting monitors began referring to him as a high-major prospect. With his confidence soaring and plenty of rave reviews, he and those around him thought it was only a matter of time before his phone began to blow up.

It never did.

Two possible reasons: He's a 6-foot-2 combo guard and his last name is Jordan.

"With Marcus, the biggest question is where he will play at the next level," says Rising Stars coach Brian Davis, who has coached Marcus in AAU since seventh grade. "Is he a true point guard or a two guard? The next problem is he's Michael Jordan's son. I hate to say that's a problem, but it seems like a lot of college coaches are intimidated because of that. But he's a regular kid looking to play college basketball and he can play. It's not like he can't play.

"I just think college coaches are missing the boat on not recruiting because of his name. To be honest with you, you think it would be the opposite. You have the greatest player who ever played in the league in my eyes, and this is his son. Michael was a winner in college, a winner at the next level. This kid's a winner. He's going to work his butt off."

But there are reasons college coaches can feel weird about that phone call. Recruiting a Jordan isn't the same as recruiting most players. It starts with contacting Davis or Whitney Young coach Tyrone Slaughter. From there, the coach is contacted by Juanita Jordan, Marcus' mother, or Michael. Finally, if it's worth pursing, Marcus will contact the coach.

"This is what makes Marcus a difficult recruit for everybody," says recruiting analyst Roy Schmidt of Illinois Prep Bulls-eye. "Every program out there is aware that the process is going through so many different filters than Marcus himself. It reminds me of a little bit when Mike Bibby was recruited to Arizona with it relating to a family name and dealing with a father who not only played in the NBA, but is extremely high profile and easily recognizable."

Illinois coach Bruce Weber has been through that process. He and his staff began talking with Jeff Jordan, the eldest son, late into his senior season. Jeff was leaning toward committing to Valparaiso when the Illini got involved.

Illinois gave Jeff what he was seeking—a high-major basketball program and great academics. For Weber, bringing Jeff in provided him another solid guard off the bench. Early on though, Weber had to prove to the Jordans he was sincere about recruiting Jeff.

"I think there's no doubt just talking to Jeff and his family it probably has hurt both of them because some people are afraid to get involved," Weber says. "Maybe some people are recruiting for notoriety. I was recruiting him because he's a quality person, he's a good student, he wanted to be at Illinois. I talked to him about making his own legacy, his own mark. No one in the history of basketball, maybe LeBron, maybe Kobe, but no one may reach what his dad did. We're interested in what Jeffery's about."

While both are lefties and exceedingly polite and generally humble kids— both call reporters "Mr."—the brothers are different. Jeff has a quiet confidence while Marcus is more vocal. Marcus is stronger. Jeff is a more natural point guard. Jeff was willing to walk-on at Illinois and work his way into playing time. Marcus has three priorities: a scholarship, a high-major program and immediate playing time.

"I'm a basketball player first," Marcus says. "I would love to get a scholarship. I think that's the biggest misconception about me that I'm going to go anywhere where I want to go. I'm a basketball player, too. I want to be recruited. I want to feel like a school wants me."

Part of what Juanita and Michael do is make sure coaches seek Marcus for his game and not his name. It's not an easy thing to interpret. "He wants to be treated as Marcus Jordan, not Michael Jordan's son," says Juanita. "He feels like he works hard and he earns it."

So where does he stand now? Miami (Fla.) was high on him, and Marcus was preparing to commit to the Hurricanes last month, but when they picked up another commitment from a guard, it took his recruitment back to square one. Right now, he lists a bunch of schools as possibilities. Slaughter, his high school coach, recently traveled to Memphis to see a practice and struck up a conversation with John Calipari about Marcus. The Tigers are now among those recruiting him.

Exposure won't be a problem for Marcus this season. Whitney Young will play in seven states, including California, Hawaii and New Jersey. In December, it goes up against Oak Hill Academy in Milwaukee.

At every site, Marcus expects to be asked for autographs. He's been signing programs and answering questions about his dad since Space Jam. Marcus will probably even hear some taunts from opposing student sections, but it's nothing new and nothing that will affect him.

"I don't really care what people think," Marcus says. "I'm just going to go out and do me and do what I know I can do. When I was younger, people told me, 'You're not going to do this. You're not going to be that. You'll never be MJ junior' and all that stuff. I just push all that to the side, and once I figured out how good I was, it was like, 'Well, you can't guard me, so you know …'".