SMITHFIELD It's not unusual for Sky View center Jordan Stone to get noticed. Attracting attention seems to happen when you stand 6-foot-11 and weigh 250 pounds.
Opponents notice him swatting their shots all the time. Teammates notice him creating space and offensive opportunities down low. Utah State coach Stew Morrill liked what he noticed so much he offered him a scholarship while he was a junior. Heck, even airplanes notice when they have to adjust their altitude.
But Stone recently got recognized for something other than being a tall basketball player and he loved it. He was at a USU basketball game at the Smith Spectrum when a young boy came up to him he was easy to spot and said, "Hey, you came and read to me."
That, Stone said, was "cool" and "fun." It was made possible because he took time out of his schedule for students at a nearby elementary school, something he and his teammates switch off doing once a week. That small volunteer act of reading books about the ABCs, jumping and bouncing, or whatever, is making a big impression on youngsters and that's just one thing his coach enjoys noticing about him.
"He's one of the most unselfish kids I've ever met," said Sky View coach Terrell Baldwin, who credited his family for passing along that trait. "He's very caring and gives of his time freely.... He's just a really, really kind person."
Sometimes he can be too nice on the court. Though Baldwin said Stone has "tenacity," his charitable attitude can carry over onto the hardwood. So while he averages about 20 points and 10 rebounds, he could maybe even should score more if he remotely resembled a ball hog. But he doesn't. He is more interested in dishing the ball back to teammates on the perimeter for an open shot if he's double- or triple-teamed than trying to force it in traffic.
"He understands one very important point that it's not about Jordan Stone, it's about his team being successful and that's what makes Jordan a successful player," Baldwin said. "He's very unselfish. He's concerned about the welfare of his team. Sometimes he's too unselfish. Sometimes he should shoot the ball a little bit more."
His teammates certainly appreciate the fact the future Aggie who's following in the footsteps of former Sky View/Utah State great Nate Harris isn't a black hole. They realize he could have more 40-point games like he did earlier this year in a triple-OT win over Highland, Idaho, but that might not always be what's best for the team. He understands that, and so do they. Part of their strategy, says sophomore shooting guard Kyler Carlsen, is to pass it in to Stone and then spot up for open shots outside when opponents "suck in on him."
"He's very unselfish," Carlsen said. "I mean, if he's triple-teamed he'll pass it out, but he can score at will, I think. He's a great post player. He's explosive, can change games."
Some of that is because of his advantageous size. But his huge work ethic also gives him an edge. So does his willingness to be "extremely coachable," Baldwin says. All the sweating, shooting, gym time and weight-lifting he put in this past summer is paying off as well. He still wants to work on his perimeter defense and post moves, but he's getting there.
"He hasn't taken anything for granted. He's worked extremely hard to make himself a fine basketball player, and he's going to continue to get better," Baldwin said. "He's better today than he was yesterday, and he'll be better tomorrow than he was today. That's just kind of the way Jordan's been."
Stone's continual improvement is helping him catch up and then some to make up for lost time. He didn't start playing organized ball until the eighth grade, when a lot of eventual prep hoopsters are already AAU veterans. You'd never know that now as he battles with standout big boys in Region 5 such as Patrick Day of Woods Cross and Bountiful's Ben Aird.
"Along with his size, he had an increased desire to improve and get better and compete, and the rest just kind of fell in place," Baldwin said. "We've just been really, really excited about his progress."
Well into his junior high days, Stone had actually played more organized baseball than hoops. But he kept growing taller and his family kept encouraging him to try basketball, and he finally decided to give it a go. Bobcat fans not to mention USU supporters who'll get to cheer for him after the LDS mission he'll go on this fall will notch that down as a good decision.So will some elementary kids who enjoy his reading skills.