Senior Staff Writer
Jordan Barham ’16 was due for a breakout season. The 6’5” senior guard had earned a spot in Davidson’s starting lineup about halfway through his junior season after proving to be one of Coach Bob McKillop’s most effective bench options in his first two years.
In fact, Barham had more than doubled his scoring average every year at Davidson, reaching 11.8 points per game at the end of last season. Even Sports Illustrated recognized his unheralded production, projecting Barham fifth in the nation in their offensive efficiency rating metric for high-volume, high-efficiency scorers.
In addition, Barham worked hard this past offseason to improve the most glaring deficiencies in his game: ball handling and jump shooting. Adding to his proven rebounding and ability to finish around the rim, Barham was poised to be a driving force in replacing the graduated production of Tyler Kalinoski to follow up the Wildcats’ A-10 Championship in their first season in the league.
The season started just as everyone expected. Barham registered double-digit points in 8 of the Wildcats’ first 10 games as the team started the season 8-2. He recorded a double-double in a win over Mercer and scored a season-high 22 points in a victory over Eastern Washington that brought his average to 13.7 points per game.
But in the team’s 11th game, everything changed. Barham twisted his knee in a blowout loss at California. After the swelling subsided, doctors told him he had sustained another meniscus injury.
It was déjà vu all over again for Barham. The senior has had surgery on the same knee three times for meniscal injuries, the most recent being just last April. Surgery would again be required to fully heal his knee, but Barham decided he couldn’t afford to sit out the four weeks’ recovery time during his final season as a Wildcat. “This is my last go around, and the last thing I would want to do is miss being on the court fighting with my brothers,” he said.
He also plans to continue playing professionally after Davidson, and knows missing 4 weeks at the end of his senior year wouldn’t help his case. But the injury proved a clear drawback on Barham’s production. Since the Cal game, he is averaging just 5.1 points and 2.9 rebounds in just over 10 minutes per game; that compared to 13 points and 5.5 rebounds in 23.2 minutes per game before the injury.
“It was definitely tough these last couple games,” he said. Yet Barham has vowed to play through the pain. “I’ve always played through a little bit of knee pain,” he said. “It’s something that I don’t really feel once I’m on the court and the adrenaline kicks in.”
And even if his court time and production have dipped, Barham has continued to help his team in ways that don’t show up on the stat sheet as a senior leader. “Even when I’m on the bench, I try to get the guys ready to play and encourage them throughout the game,” he said. “We’re still really young, so just being there for those guys like another coach on the bench has really helped me contribute even during this injury.”
There are also promising signs on the court. Barham scored 10 points and grabbed seven boards in 13 minutes in the Wildcats’ big road win at Duquesne last Saturday. He credits team trainer Chris Hagemann’s treatment and Coach McKillop’s game management for giving him the relief necessary to come back strong. “I’m starting to get back there,” Barham said. “The last couple games I feel like I’m getting back to that first step explosiveness that I had my first three years here.
“If you play scared, you’re going to get hurt. You can’t really think about that; you just got to be on the court thinking about winning that game.”
Barham hopes to use the momentum he generated in the Duquesne game to catalyze the ‘Cats up the A-10 standings and into the postseason.
But he also knows he will have to be a big part of any success Davidson has in the final stretch of the season. “I’m going to give my everything,” he said. “I understand my role is going to be to score around the basket, rebound, and get other guys open, so I’m going to continue to do that more and more as my minutes increase, and that will lead to more production.”
Yet statistical success is not the reason Barham continues to play through injury. He plays for much more than that. “I’m really motivated by my family. They’ve been a great support system my whole life, and my mom and brother have made some really big sacrifices just for me to get to where I am to this point,” he explained.
In fact, it’s both his biological and basketball families that push Barham to tough it out and push on. “They really keep me motivated everyday,” he said. “I want us to go out on a winning note.”