The562’s season previews for the 2022-23 school year are sponsored by Vertical Raise, the official team fundraising partner of The562.
The562’s coverage of Jordan Athletics is sponsored by John Ross, Class of 2013.
When Chris Francis first arrived in the Moore League as the head coach at Millikan, his Rams finished under .500 in his first season, only to make a run to the Division 1AA semifinals in year two.
Last season, Francis returned to the Moore League and led a young, promising group of Jordan Panthers to a sub-.500 record in his first season in North Long Beach. Well, it’s now year two in J-Town, and with most of the team returning and some key incoming veterans, can history repeat itself for Francis & Co. in the Division 4A playoffs this winter?
First off, Jordan will certainly be tested this season, with several high-profile games against opponents from higher divisions. The Panthers visited Mayfair (in Division 2A) for their season opener on Monday, securing a 78-76 win to get off to a strong start to the campaign. J-Town will also host St. John Bosco (Nov. 16), and travel to play a couple of nationally-ranked teams in Harvard-Westlake (Dec. 6) and Bronny James’ Sierra Canyon (Dec. 8) squad in the same week.
Jordan will be the underdogs in all of those games, but that’s nothing new for the Panthers as they look to revitalize a proud program on the North Side.
“We put in the work, we established the culture here–and I’m not talking about just basketball, I’m talking about on campus as well–and it’s to the point where we want to see how good we are,” Francis said. “We put together a competitive schedule because we think we’re a competitive team. I’m not giving nobody any bulletin board material, but the ultimate goal is always to win your league, to make a run in the playoffs, and it’s about catching that stride at the right time.”
The Panthers have cause for optimism, led by the return of both the Redmond Brothers: Dennis and Jaymari. Dennis is the senior guard who was a first team All-Moore League selection a season ago and had a team-high 31 points in the season-opening win at Mayfair. Jaymari is one of the team’s up-and-coming sophomores who saw extensive playing time as a freshman.
Daveyon Chisom is another sophomore starter for the Panthers, and one with extreme upside. The 6-foot-4 forward has terrific athleticism and has shown flashes of being a volume scorer.
Jordan has also bolstered its backcourt with some experienced transfer guards who can both fill it up–Franklyn Chambers from Domingues HS and Kane Young from Gahr HS. Chambers made an impressive debut with 22 points against Mayfair, and both players should be difference-makers adding the needed elements of experience and depth to the Jordan lineup.
“I've always been a coach who likes guard play. I was a guard, and I coach the game the way I play the game,” explained Francis, who went on to describe what he likes about Chambers and Young. “They’re crafty guards, they’ve got decent IQs, and they play hard. And that's the thing about it, it's always about effort. Effort beats talent every time. They’ve just gotta get acclimated to what we try to do over here. They struggled at times, because we do everything at 100 percent; we don't do anything half speed. Everything we do has got to be 100 percent.”
On the court, Dennis Redmond sees the benefit of having more experience across the board and has high hopes for how Jordan’s high-tempo offense will run in the season ahead.
“I feel like there will be a lot more IQ on the team and everybody will get more open shots,” he said. “I feel like we’ll be way better both scoring and defensively. I think we’re going to be a really tough team to stop.”
In the frontcourt, senior Jerome Wilson is back after playing a ton of minutes last season. He’s got the best size on the roster and will be called upon to use his frame to battle in the paint and on the boards, but he’s also a shooting threat from the outside.
Francis also praised junior Gerald Pickens, who was the team’s MVP during summer ball and was playing with a lot more confidence. He and Jaymari Redmond had been away from the team during football season, but they’re both quickly getting back into the fold.
Sophomore Jamar Andrews adds good length and athleticism, which will be a strength for J-Town this season. Francis-coached teams are always known for their intense full-court pressure and fast-paced style, but this group should offer more versatility in that approach with the ability to disrupt passing lanes more often in the half court.
“We're gonna mix it up,” said Francis of Jordan’s defensive philosophy this year. “We're not gonna necessarily press you all game, because that's what people expect. But the length does make a big difference because we can be interchangeable. Again, it's about controlling tempo, and we want to control the tempo. And we obviously want to be up-tempo and play fast.”
Anticipation is high around the program, and the players themselves are eager to show the progress they’ve made from last year to this year.
“I'm not gonna lie, I’m very excited,” Dennis Redmond said. “It’s my senior year, I just want to go big, play against these top teams, finally get recognized, and, you know, just play ‘Me’ the whole time.”
Francis knows that his team will be challenged, but hopes they’ll be battle-tested for the second part of the season. With such a rigorous schedule, the Panthers will have a good idea of who they are by the time Moore League play rolls around, and J-Town will be seeking its first playoff berth in six years.
“There's gonna be some bumps and bruises along the way, but we wanted to play high-level, quality competition so when it comes to league time, hopefully that'll pay off for us,” Francis said. “We expect to be successful. We expect to compete, but the main thing is that we want to change the culture and thinking of Long Beach Jordan Basketball. We are back as a program and we will be competitive … and we’ll play anybody, anywhere.”
The Panthers will open league play on Dec. 16 hosting Compton, before taking trips to play Cabrillo and defending champions Poly the next week. J-Town will play seven of their first nine league games at home on Ron Massey Court before closing out with three straight road games.