February 27, 2019

After Being Honored For Receiving Pyne Prize, Jordan Helps PU Women’s Hoops Top Columbia

EYES ON THE PRIZE: Princeton University women’s basketball player Sydney Jordan eyes the hoop in a game earlier this season. Last Saturday evening, senior Jordan contributed five points and four rebounds to help Princeton defeat Columbia 65-59. Earlier in the day, Jordan was honored for being the co-winner of Princeton’s 2019 Moses Taylor Pyne Honor Prize, the highest general distinction available to an undergraduate. Princeton, who improved to 15-9 overall and 7-2 Ivy League with win over Columbia, was slated to play at Penn on February 26 before hosting Dartmouth on March 1 and Harvard on March 2. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Justin Feil

Sydney Jordan doesn’t get a lot of curtain calls, but with 1.8 seconds left the Princeton University senior was taken out of a 65-59 win over Columbia on Saturday to a warm round of applause from the Jadwin Gym crowd.

“It was interesting,” said the Princeton University senior guard/forward. “It was funny.”

Jordan didn’t really want any more attention. She had her moment before the Tiger women’s basketball team held off Columbia, getting honored before tip-off for being the co-winner of Princeton’s 2019 Moses Taylor Pyne Honor Prize, the highest general distinction available to an undergraduate. She shared the award with fellow senior Annabel Barry.

“It’s awesome that I have my teammates here with me,” Jordan said. “They’re the best and I love them so much. It was really great to have them here to support me and give me a hug afterwards.”

Earlier in the day, Jordan had been honored formally by the University at a luncheon on Alumni Day. The Pyne Honor Prize has been awarded to a senior annually since 1921. Princeton touted that the award previously has gone to former Princeton University President Emeritus Robert F. Goheen, to former U.S. Senator Paul Sarbanes, and to U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor.

“I was speechless,” Jordan said. “To learn people like Sonia Sotomayor won it too, my mind was blown. To be in the same category with her in anything is amazing.”

Sotomayor, though, never had a jump shot, and Jordan made some history of her own. The Pyne award had never before gone to a female athlete at Princeton. (Ann-Marie Elvin, a 2012 recipient of the honor, played three years for the women’s hockey team, but retired due to injury before receiving the award.)

“I’m not super emotional, I’m more fun loving, but I had tears while Sydney was speaking, taking a picture of her,” said Princeton head coach Courtney Banghart. “I am so proud of that kid and what she brought to Princeton. It’s really cool.”

Banghart has been thrilled first-hand by what Jordan, a 6’0 native of Manassas, Va., has brought to her Tigers. Jordan’s free throw with 45 seconds left made it that much tougher for Columbia to come back. Her line was pretty typical for her – 24 minutes, five points, four rebounds, two steals, and an assist, a little of everything. She is one of just three Princeton players to play in all 24 games this season heading into its rematch with Penn, slated for February 26.

Her hustle shows in what she’s done for Princeton. She’s tops on the team in offensive rebounds (53), tied for the team lead in steals (41), and second in blocked shots (19). Jordan has played guard and forward — whatever Princeton has needed — and started for her last three years.

“Sydney is a teammate and she’s accountable,” said Banghart of Jordan who is averaging 6.7 points and 4.6 rebounds a game.

“You think about her commitment to public service and her commitment to others, which is what she’s studying, and that’s how she plays. They say sports build character, and it does for her. She’s a selfless player and she’s accountable. That’s what our society needs, and they’re about to get when she graduates.”

Off the court, it’s almost impossible to list all that Jordan has done over her four years. She is a philosophy major who is also getting a certificate in Near Eastern studies. She’s finishing her thesis on corporate social responsibility. She’s chaired the Diversity and Equity Committee of the Princeton Undergraduate Student Government, served as a representative on the Community Service Inter-Club Council, and been a Princeton University Chapel deacon. She’s been an orientation leader, a mentor, and a Student-Athlete Wellness Leader. All while starting on a varsity sports team.

“I had a lot of help,” said Jordan. “The Princeton Varsity Club is always giving us opportunities to lead and serve the community. I’ve taken advantage of that and I’m really grateful for that. We have a great team around our team — our faculty fellows, our coaches — they’ve been really supportive and have helped me learn how to balance the really important things.”

It wasn’t easy to find that balance. Early on, she had to figure out how to explore everything that interested her while maintaining her basketball.

“It was very tough,” said Jordan. “It was definitely a transition. There were an overwhelming amount of opportunities here with how talented everyone is here and how passionate they are. And then you learn to take that as a positive and it inspires you to work as hard as everyone is around you and learn from it and collaborate with them. That’s been really awesome.”

Last summer, Jordan gained more perspective on her future after graduation. She interned at LIFT, a nonprofit in Washington, D.C., that focuses on helping underprivileged families.

“It was an awesome experience,” said Jordan, who is hoping to eventually go to law school. “It was really cool to be around people who dedicated their lives to helping others, especially the underserved communities. To be able to join that mission was really inspiring and confirmed for me that that’s where I want to spend my career — in public service.”

First, however, Jordan is hoping to be that good teammate for the Tigers as they aim for an Ivy title. Princeton, now 15-9 overall and 7-2 Ivy, sat one game behind Penn going into Tuesday’s showdown.

“This time we’re trying to come out against Penn with the confidence that we know that we can win,” said Jordan, reflecting on the renewal of the rivalry which saw the Quakers pull out a 66-60 win on January 5.

“We’ll lock down on their personnel, which is something we focus on a lot. We need to have that confidence going in and that energy.”

Princeton came out strong in both games last weekend. It held big leads on Cornell and Columbia, only to see those leads whittle down in the second half. On Friday, the Tigers held off Cornell, 68-64, behind a team-high 16 points from Gabrielle Rush and 10 points apiece from Bella Alarie and Jordan. The next night, Alarie led the team with 14 points despite spraining her ankle late in the game, and Carlie Littlefield and Grace Stone had 13 points apiece.

“We’re always glad to come out of the weekend with a sweep, and we’re always looking for wins on the road to the Ivy championship,” said Jordan. “I was really proud of our energy tonight. I think it was a lot better than yesterday. As far as them coming back in the fourth, it’s on us to be better about shutting down the other team’s best players.”

Princeton went cold with their shooting in the second half against Columbia which helped the Lions rally but Banghart liked the way that her team responded to some adversity.

“We shot 0-for-11 from 3 and 15 percent from 2,” said Banghart, whose team hosts Dartmouth on March 1 and Harvard on March 2.

“If you show me that stat over a 20-minute half and say we win, we didn’t let offense affect our defense. We couldn’t score. We were taking the right shots. We just sat down and defended. And we took care of business in the front half so we had some room to work with. To sustain a 15-percent 2-point shooting for a half and 0-for-11 from 3 says a lot about where we were.”

On nights like that when the offense doesn’t finish, Princeton is lucky to have someone like Jordan, who will do all the little things that give the Tigers a chance to win. On the court, it has helped Princeton win a lot of games over her career, and it’s something that off the court the Pyne Award recognized for her myriad contributions and academic accomplishments.

“I never felt like it was too much,” said Jordan. “It’s a lot of fun. It’s something that I enjoy. I enjoy being involved, I enjoy doing things and making a difference.”