Former Salvation Army Red Shield Club attendee wins North Carolina state championship
By: Donal Ware
CeeJay Jordan remembers when his basketball team at The Salvation Army of Wake County Red Shield Club won the Hoops Councils title in 2017 in Greensboro, N.C.
“I’ll never forget that moment,” Jordan said. “We lost so many times and to finally win that meant a lot.”
Fast-forward almost four years to the day, Jordan was part of another championship team. This time, he was a starter on the Millbrook Wildcats boys basketball team, the squad that defeated Ardrey Kell 67-65 in overtime on Saturday to claim the North Carolina Boys Basketball 4A state title, less than 30 miles from where his Salvation Army team won Hoops Councils four years previous.
“Actually to win the state championship not too far from where we won Hoops Councils, that memory came back to me instantly,” he said. “It felt good to be the first team to do it in [school] history. They’ve been close so many times. Once that clock hit double zero, my emotions were to the roof.
“I know how much work we put in to get to that point and to finally be able to accomplish it and to bring it back to Raleigh, bring it back to Millbrook, to the alums, and to actually be that team to actually win it, that’s just an amazing feeling.”
The Wildcats finished the season, 19-0 and Jordan was named to the All-Cap 7 second team. This was his first year playing varsity, having played junior varsity the previous two years. Just because the Wildcats were undefeated doesn’t mean it was easy. Their last three contests – quarterfinals, semifinals, and the championship game – all went into overtime.
“We do this [drill] in practice called time and score. Throughout the regular season, we don’t think we need it because when you go undefeated in the regular season, you think, that’s cool,” Jordan said. “We practice for those moments. We practice being down seven with a minute to go. We practice being down four or two. We practice those moments.”
The Wildcats found themselves down by four points in overtime to Ardrey Kell. One of the Wildcats best players, Eric Vanderheidjden, had fouled out. The Wildcats came back and a Silas Demary, Jr. layup with seven seconds left, proved to be the difference for the Wildcats.
Jordan, who is now 16 years old, said he tried not to be nervous coming into one of if not the biggest game of his life. He was more excited than anything. He tried to treat it like just a playoff game. He started and played 20 minutes in the game, scoring six points on 2-of-4 shooting from the field and 2-of-2 from the free throw line. He also grabbed seven rebounds and had an assist, but as important, he was on the floor when the final horn sounded.
“I was happy with the way that I played, regardless of what the box score showed,” said Jordan. “I just was trying to do whatever I could to help the team win. I really don’t try to get caught up in the stats. To me, if we lose that game, those stats don’t me anything. To just be able to see the floor in that game, I just thank God everyday.”
Jordan credits The Salvation Army for helping him get to where he is now. He played t-ball, soccer, flag football, and of course basketball. He is a junior and has a 3.0 grade point average and as a 6’4” combo guard, Jordan hopes to get a scholarship to play college basketball and then hopes also one day to play professionally.
“The Salvation Army has helped me in so many ways,” he said. “I remember going there after school, playing with the older guys. The gym there is my home gym because that’s where it all started. My mom worked there and I would go there after school and they would let me get a ball and I would just shoot until it was time to go.”
Jordan credits The Salvation Army, his Millbrook coach Christopher Davis, his family and others for helping him to achieve his success to this point. But he gives the most credit to his mother, Melissa Jordan, who has worked at the Red Shield Club for 15 years.
“I could go on for years about her,” he said. “Her really being there for me when I didn’t believe in myself. She gave me an opportunity to be the best that I can be. Going to work with her to use the gym. Building character for me. One of the first things I did (at the end of the game) was go and hug her. In that moment of her telling me that she was proud of me, just brought tears to my eyes.
“I’ve been through a lot and everything I’ve been through, she’s been there every step of the way. She never quit on me. Without God and her, I probably would not have been in that moment.”
And four days after winning the championship, he was right back where it all began, at The Salvation Army of Wake County Red Shield Club gymnasium, putting up shots, preparing to get back to the championship next year.
Donal Ware is the public relations director for The Salvation Army of Wake County