The bottom line is, Jordan Kress wants to play.
She really does not care much what the sport is, or whether the competition is boys in youth league or seniors as a freshman on varsity.
So when she decided she was done with basketball after her sophomore year, something was wrong.
“I had a coach my sophomore year that made me think I was not coming back and ever playing basketball again. I hated it. He was the kind of coach that if you’re tall you play post. I’m a point guard and I enjoy taking charge of the court,” Kress said. “He wasn’t willing to work with my volleyball schedule and I was trying to get committed for volleyball. He was like, ‘if you’re not here, you don’t play at all.’”
When new coach Jaime Carreon arrived before the 2018-19 season, he said he was willing to work around Kress’ club volleyball schedule. And he was not focusing on her abilities — Kress led the Mountain Lions in scoring (13.8 points per game) rebounding (6.6), assists (2.9), steals (2.2) and blocks (2.1).
Still, she only decided to come back right before the season.
“I didn’t want her to miss out on all the fun things we were going to do for players. Honestly I didn’t really now until a day or two before tryout last year,” Carreon said.
She led the basketball team to an improved 13-13 record last year. And so far this basketball season, Kress is playing a large role in the most fun team she has been a part of — at least in the burgundy and forest green.
A parent told Carreon she was grateful for how Kress interacts with younger teammates.
And she is appreciating how things have come full circle after playing varsity volleyball and basketball since her freshman year. Kress gets to mentor freshmen Janae Floyd, Alyssa Fraulino and Hannah Uhlenhop.
“It’s kind of crazy to think I’ve been playing these sports four years now and I’m going to be leaving soon. I know how important it is to feel welcomed when you’re young. You’re already scared to be on a team where most people already know each other,” Kress said.
She was in their shoes recently. Volleyball is her main sport but she only played since seventh grade.
Basketball was not her forte growing up either, nor were girls leagues.
“It was always like baseball and football, boys sports. That’s why I feel like I’ve grown with stronger players. That’s why I feel I’m so aggressive in basketball,” Kress said. “I just always played in many sports growing up.”
Volleyball emerged as her best sport, if not her favorite. Kress was second on the team in kills as a freshman then took over the honors as a sophomore.
She also played sand volleyball her freshman and sophomore years before taking it off her schedule for a bit of a breather.
Her junior volleyball season was the most intense, Kress said, because she was finalizing her recruiting for that sport. She rediscovered her love of basketball and did not listen to people who said she should focus on her future college sports.
“I had people saying why are you still playing basketball if you’re trying to get committed for volleyball. Why are you doing that to your body? You’re wearing yourself out. People would always tell my mom I was doing too much,” Kress said. “But I asked myself, Am I really doing too much if it’s all something I love.”
Kress said that her early talks with Carreon let her know he was there for her as a person first, then a player. School comes first.
For his part, Carreon learned his new top player was not an overwhelming personality. But she was the type that welcomed others into the circle.
“Her personality is something kids on campus draw to. All the teachers and kids like her. She’s somebody who is laughing and making jokes. She’s the type of person people gravitate toward,” Carreon said.
Mountain Ridge volleyball made a surprise playoff trip in 2017 but struggled the last two seasons. Kress said taking Hamilton volleyball to five sets last year and a basketball upset of O’Connor last year were her highlights.
Early on her final sports season at Mountain Ridge looks like it will be Kress’ most memorable. The Mountain Lions burst out of the gates 11-2 after winning the post-Christmas tourney in Prescott.
Yet Kress said her favorite game this basketball season was a loss. Chandler beat Mountain Ridge by 55 points en route to the 6A quarterfinals. This year the Mountain Lions went to Chandler and nearly upset the Wolves before falling 49-45.
“Before the season I told her this was going to be the most talented team she played with. After the second or third practice she looked at me ands said yeah.” Carreon said.
Kress does not even need to lead the team in scoring thus far. Junior Lauren Maza is at 16.5 points per game, while Kress adds 14.3 and junior Arielle Parker chips in 11.3.
Desert Valley Region play begins Jan. 7, with games against district rivals Boulder Creek and O’Connor as well as top 6A contenders Phoenix Pinnacle and Scottsdale Chaparral. Kress said she wants to see more students out to games.
When not at those games, Kress figures to be studying or training as her high school days wrap up.
“When I was younger I got away with not working as hard as anyone else. When I decided I wanted to be real about sports and I wanted to go college I worked harder,” Kress said.
The improved work ethic paid off as she made a verbal commitment to play volleyball at NCAA Division I school Fairfield University in Connecticut as a junior. Earlier this fall she signed to play for the Stags, accepting their scholarship offer.
She said she wants to study psychology, with the goal of becoming a sports team psychologist.
It does not hurt that Fairfield is a good program that just made the NCAA Tournament. But Kress said the campus felt like home despite being across the country and coach Tod Kress, no relation, kept in contact with her for three years congratulating her for academic and athletic honors along the way.
“I’ve been to other college campuses. When I got there I felt like this is something I would enjoy,” Kress said.