Standard-Times: Defense gave GNB Voc-Tech alum Rose-Wheatley opportunity to shine

Jordan Rose-Wheatley

By Brendan Kurie
New Bedford Standard-Times
Standard-Times Article

In his first 19 collegiate games, Jordan Rose-Wheatley never scored more than six points.

Then it all came together.

Rose-Wheatley, a GNB Voc-Tech graduate from New Bedford, averaged 12 points a game over his final three games for Becker College this season, solidifying his spot in the team's starting lineup and giving him momentum heading into his sophomore campaign next year.

"I was feeling comfortable," Rose-Wheatley said. "But I was really focusing on my defense. I knew if I could play defense, I could get on the floor."

That's a big shift for a highlight-reel player who averaged 18.7 points a game his senior year at Voc-Tech, but was never known as a defensive stopper. He realized his road to playing time came on the defensive end during a prep season at Bridgton Academy, located in inland Maine, about an hour north of Portland.

The 6-foot-1, 160-pound Rose-Wheatley ended up at Bridgton on the advice of Brian Rudolph, his trainer and former New Bedford High coach. Rudolph spent a year at Bridgton before playing at Loyola.

"He led me there to open up my game and mature more," Rose-Wheatley said. "I just wanted to get stronger and get my grades where they needed to be."

At Bridgton, his coach told him if he wasn't going to commit to the defensive end, he wasn't going to get on the court.

"That stuck with me," Rose-Wheatley said. "I could always score, so I was more focused on defense."

While at Bridgton, he looked at colleges in New Hampshire and Vermont, but he preferred being closer to home. His father, Buddy Wheatley, one of Buddy Thomas' 20 best players of the past 50 years at New Bedford High, had played at Becker in the 1980s when it was a junior college.

"He came here so he could be closer to home, like me, and he said it was a good experience," Rose-Wheatley said. "I took his advice and came for a visit."

He was quickly smitten with the school in the heart of Worcester.

"I like the campus, it felt comfortable," he said. "I met a few players and the coach took me on a tour. I just kind of felt at home."

Soon, he was finding his place among his third group of new teammates in as many years. Even though the game was the same, the faces were unfamiliar.

"Basketball is pretty much all the same to me," he said. "It wasn't really different. It was just being with different people I had to learn from and fit in with."

His final numbers weren't anything to write home about, as he averaged 3.2 points and 1.6 rebounds a game on 53.4 percent shooting, 28.6 percent on 3s and 77.8 percent at the line in 22 games. But those numbers don't tell the true story of his freshman season.

Rose-Wheatley played sparingly at first, seeing just three total minutes in the Hawks' first six games. His first extended playing time came on Dec. 4, when he logged 16 minutes against Lesley, finishing with five points, two rebounds and a block. A week later, he made his first start and played 30 minutes against Worcester State, finishing with six points, four rebounds and a steal.

He went on to start the next four games, although in the last three his minutes dipped into single digits. He didn't start the next six games, and he played as few as four minutes a game. The six points he scored against Worcester State were still his career-high through the team's first 19 games.

Then, on Jan. 30 against Mitchell, he was re-inserted into the starting lineup and played 19 minutes, his most since Jan. 3. The next night he logged a season-high 33 minutes against Southern Vermont. While his usage rate was nearly non-existent — he didn't score and attempted just one field goal — he had learned to contribute in other ways, grabbing four rebounds, dishing out four assists, snagging two steals and blocking two shots.

Suddenly, the gunner had become the box-score stuffer. But you can't keep a natural scorer down for long.

On Feb. 9 against New England College, he set a new career-high in scoring with 15 points, adding three rebounds and two assists. He scored 10 in his next game, adding four rebounds, one steal and three blocks, then finished up the 2018-19 campaign with 11 points, one rebound, three assists and two steals against Newbury.

He was named the Worcester Area College Basketball Association Rookie of the Week for Feb. 17, thanks to shooting a scorching 83.3 percent from the floor, but he can offer little in the way of explanation for his sudden scoring output.

"I just had my opportunity and it showed," he said. "There was no other reason for it. The last five games I felt, as a team, we really clicked and we showed what we can do next year and in upcoming seasons."

The Hawks did win their final two games, although they finished the season 7-18, with a 6-10 mark in the Commonwealth Coast Conference, a disappointment for a program that was 15-12 (9-5 CCC) the year before. Rose-Wheatley believes the 2019-20 version of the Hawks, who will graduate just one senior off this team, will be closer to that mark.

"We just have to keep pushing as a team, trust each other and trust coach and always be aggressive and we should be good," he said. "The goal is always for a championship. So that's what we're pushing for."

Rose-Wheatley will also be pushing toward his sports management major. He hopes to become an athletic director, a career that piqued his interest thanks to Voc-Tech AD Ryan Methia.

"I knew him before, so when he became AD I asked him a couple questions about it and it caught my attention," he said.

A couple more seasons of playing the way he did in February and Rose-Wheatley will be the one catching everyone else's attention.