Salisbury University men’s basketball team has started the 2020-21 campaign with a 2-1 record, including back-to-back victories against Virginia Wesleyan University and St. Mary’s College of Maryland to open the year.
On a team with eight new faces, it is reasonable to expect some of the new players to take on a significant role. Freshman forward Jordan Oates has been no exception.
Oates tallied a double-double in the first two contests this season including a 23-point, 15-rebound performance in a win over the Marlins to begin the campaign. He has also led the team in scoring and rebounds in both games.
Head coach Maurice Williams said that fans of the team may be surprised about Oates’s success so far, but nobody in the locker room expected any less.
“Something I shared with [Oates] … was that nobody inside those four walls is surprised by [his] performance,” Williams said. “We’re very fortunate to have him.”
Other players on the squad have noted his performance as well.
Senior guard Johnny Fierstein said Oates has been a force for the team thus far.
“Everyone’s getting put on notice,” Fierstein said. “He can really shoot and he can really rebound. It’s kind of unbelievable.”
From Dragon to Raider
Jordan Oates did not have the typical high school experience.
Oates attended Glenelg Country School and played on the basketball team during his freshman and sophomore seasons. After a somewhat disappointing sophomore campaign, Oates decided he needed a change of scenery.
Oates made the decision to transfer to Atholton, a public school in Howard County. Oates said the main reason he chose to join the Raiders was to be around his family.
Oates’s brother, Justin, was a senior for the Raiders when Jordan arrived.
“One of the main reasons I went [to Atholton] was because my brother was there,” Oates said. “I got to play with him … that was a real fun year.”
“My hard work finally paid off”
Justin Oates graduated the following season along with nine other seniors, Jordan Oates became the focal point of the team.
During his senior campaign, Oates averaged 17.7 points-per-game and brought down 14.2 rebounds-per-game. He helped Atholton reach its first region championship since 2009.
Oates also set program records for total rebounds and threes in a season.
This individual excellence won Oates the Howard County boys basketball Player of the Year award. He is the first player from Atholton to earn the distinction since Tyrone Allmond in 1996.
Oates said the news was unexpected. It came by way of a phone call.
“I was actually at the eye doctor, so I was really caught off guard,” Oates said. “But it felt like all my hard work finally paid off and I was really excited.”
Flying with the Flock
Oates’s second game donning the maroon and gold did not go as smoothly as his debut.
In the contest against St. Mary’s, neither side shot particularly well from the floor. The Seahawks shot roughly 38 percent from the floor, while the Gulls converted roughly 35 percent of their shots.
Toward the end of the contest, Salisbury was clinging to a one-point lead with the Seahawks surging back into the game.
Williams elected to call a timeout and discuss the closing minutes of the game with the team. Rather than design a play, he simply gave a message to his players.
“I called the timeout and drew nothing on the board,” Williams said. “I told the guys that our culture is what is going to win us this game.”
This new culture of defense and rebounding helped Salisbury survive a late surge from the Seahawks.
With under 30 seconds remaining in the game, Oates put-back a Fierstein miss to grow the Sea Gulls lead to three and secure the victory.
Williams said he was impressed with the humility that Oates showed in the closing minute of the game.
“He gets the tip-in over two guys,” Williams said, “and we call timeout and he’s yelling in the timeout just like me to calm down, telling [the guys] we hadn’t won yet.”
Oates finished with 11 points and 17 rebounds in the win.
Fierstein said the freshman has a bright future as a Sea Gull.
“He’s a character-first kid … he’s not selfish and he’s a lot of fun to play with,” Fierstein said. “I know my assist numbers have been going up and he’s the reason I’m getting a lot of them.”
By NICK LEWIS
Photo courtesy of SU Sports Information.