By Nnenna Nnaji, '21
Since a kid, Jaylin Fordham was destined to play the sport basketball. Although being raised around the sport most of his childhood, he finally made the decision in the seventh grade that basketball was what he wanted to do to continue his family legacy.
"My dad played Division II basketball at Lake Superior State, where he broke a lot of records and has an honorary banner. When I was younger my older brother who was really good and also was ranked 32nd on ESPN's top 100, and was always that 'Top Guy'. I always thought to myself, 'Hey if they can do this, then maybe I could do the same'. That is when I decided to pick up a basketball, and I have been dedicated ever since," said Fordham.
As a result of routinely putting in extra work, Fordham is an important contributor – averaging a shade less than 10 points per game while shooting 46 percent from the field – as the Britons are in the chase for the Michigan Intercollegiate Athletic Association championship.
"My biggest routine I always do is I lift before practice. That is a huge thing to me because I want my body to be tired and fatigued before I actually practice, so that in practice I actually push myself to go harder. This helps me in game situations, like when my legs or arms are hurting and I feel like I am too tired to push myself, I will be able to still perform and play like I need to, which helps me become a better player," said Fordham.
Fordham has had eight career high 20-point games and continues to be a leader on the court for the Britons. For Fordham, scoring points is important, but he does not consider that being the only thing that makes him a good leader.
"My role is very important on the team. My biggest role this year has just been being a Leader. Being a senior, and a leader for the guys, I feel that my role is very significant, and leading by example is the biggest thing for me. Not to score points, but to actually lead. In any situation, I am the senior, and I am that person who is able to step up. I encourage and guide my teammates, to show and ensure how we are all going to work together to meet OUR goal as a team," said Fordham.
Exceeding through hardships in school and in life since a freshman, Fordham continues to improve not only physically, but mentally and emotionally as an individual and a player.
"I have seen a lot of improvements in myself in the last four years here at Albion. I am more mature now as a person and a player. Facing adversity is the biggest thing I learned from my freshman to senior year. As a freshman I used to let the game get into my head and let it crumble me up, but now as a senior, my maturity helps me handle certain situations better. It helps me be a better leader when were facing adversity in game situations, and also helps me continue to have a positive impact on my team off the court," Fordham said.
Head Coach Jody May has also observed the changes and development he has seen in Fordham throughout his career.
"I really have seen a great, positive transformation in him. A lot of it has to do with maturity. I think his transformation going from a freshman into a sophomore-in which all athletes go through this- as a freshman you're really worried about individual improvement, and he has really bought in to the fact that it's about success of the team. If the team has more success, then the individual accomplishments and notoriety will come with that. He has put the team first and he would do anything for the team. Because he is such a good leader, people are following him. That attitude has trickled down to the team, and they are catching on to that. I can't give him enough credit for this," said Coach May.
Playing varsity since his freshman year, Fordham has a great relationship with Coach May, who has taught him a lot, and who he credits for making him a better leader.
"Coach May had a lot of positive influence on me. He was hard on me as a freshman and sophomore, but I know it was all for the greater good. He has influenced me to be the best player that I can be. He saw a lot of talent and potential in me. He even saw a lot of leadership in me, when I didn't see it in myself. He knew that I could help win, and also be able to be a leader for the team-on and off the court- even when I did not believe any of this about myself. In all, he really put his trust into me, when I didn't trust myself, and for that I am grateful. That about Coach May has had the biggest influence on me," said Fordham.
Coach May shares what he will miss about Fordham, and the influences he has added for the success and individuals on the team.
"What we're going to miss the most about Jaylin is his leadership, his emotion, his verbal communication amongst the team, and just his ability to understand what the coaches want. Also, his understanding of practicing how we play. He always goes all out and pushes himself, and the team to do the same. It is the little things Jaylin does for the team that us coaches and the players appreciate. He holds the team to a high standard. That does not necessarily mean just winning, but it puts the team in position to have success. If we didn't have those little things, then we wouldn't be very successful. In all he has bought into all of it, and he keeps us focused in the right way," said Coach May.
Because Fordham has made a great impact on the Albion basketball program, it is among the things he is going to miss the most. Though Fordham graduates soon, he understands that his influence and presence will forever be with the program.
"The biggest thing I will miss about Albion basketball is being in the gym late at night with my suitemates who are also my teammates working towards our goal and getting better. This is the biggest thing I will miss because I spend so much time with them every day, on a daily basis working very hard. But most importantly I will miss my team," said Fordham.
Although Fordham will soon be graduating, his presence and leadership will be greatly missed by the Britons and Albion College. Fordham is an accounting major with a 3.5 GPA. He is currently unsure if he will go on to graduate school, or if he will automatically accept one of the many accounting firm job offers he has.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Nnenna Nnaji is a sophomore from Detroit and a product of the journalism program at Renaissance High School. An exercise science major at Albion, she is still considering a career in sports journalism.