By BRIAN CUNNIFF
When Jordan Hall saw significant varsity action as a freshman on the Middle Township High School boys basketball team, it was rather evident that he was going to be a very good player at the high school level.
There may not have been many people who saw just how good, however.
Hall left Middle Township after his freshman season and moved to the Philadelphia area. He first landed at Cardinal O’Hara as a sophomore before playing his final two seasons at Neumann-Goretti High School. Both schools are members of the Philadelphia Catholic League, widely regarded as one of the best high school boys basketball leagues in the country.
Hall stood around 6-foot tall during his freshman season at Middle. He has grown seven inches since. That growth spurt, the increased competition and a focused work ethic led to the North Wildwood native becoming one of the best high school players in the region.
The 6-7 Hall committed to Division I St. Joseph’s prior to his senior season. He then went out and enjoyed a wonderful final high school campaign that was highlighted by Neumann-Goretti winning the Catholic League championship in front of more than 8,000 fans at the storied Palestra.
Neumann-Goretti beat one of its biggest rivals, Roman Catholic, 66-58 in the title game. There were at least eight eventual Division I college basketball players who saw action in the game.
“Until that game, I always thought the Catholic League was just another game,” Hall said by telephone this week. “But I had never played in a real big championship game in my career before that. Even the semifinal (a win over Archbishop Ryan that was also played at the Palestra), there’s no experience like that. It was crazy. And then to play the championship game against Roman, our biggest rival, in front of thousands of fans, that’s just crazy.”
Hall spent his grammar school days at Margaret Mace Elementary with a ball in his hands constantly. His ball-handling skills and court vision had many believing he’d eventually turn into a prototypical high school point guard. But then he began to grow at a fast pace. He worked on different skills that could help him compete at a variety of positions.
“He can actually play positions one through four,” Neumann-Goretti coach Carl Arrigale said of Hall in a story in the Philadelphia Inquirer last summer.
Hall averaged 10.7 points for Neumann-Goretti this season after scoring at a 13.3 points-per-game clip as a junior. This year’s N-G team finished at 26-4 over beating High School of the Future, 69-52, for the 3A city title one game after the victory over Roman in the PCL title game, before winning a pair of 3A state playoff games. The season was then halted due to the COVID-19 outbreak.
Neumann-Goretti finished the season ranked No. 1 in Southeastern Pennsylvania by the Inquirer.
Hall mixed 19 points, eight rebounds and five assists in the win over High School of the Future. He previously displayed his versatility in a PCL quarterfinal win over O’Hara, his former team, by posting eight points, 12 rebounds and eight assists.
Hall knows his ability to do many things well is the strength of his game.
“Handling the ball kind of comes first nature,” he said. “When I was younger, I was this small, chubby point guard. Then I hit that growth spurt after my freshman year and I had to handle that adjustment. I got a lot of growing pains because I grew so fast. My back hurt sometimes. My knees hurt. So I had to get used to all that. But I want to play point guard in college. I’d love to be a 6-7, 6-8 point guard in college. I’m not sure what plans they have for me but I would love to do that.”
Hall, who resides in the Manayunk section of Philadelphia with his aunt, said he believes his move to the Philadelphia Catholic League considerably aided his development as a player.
“I think it taught me about being tough and it showed me that my work ethic had to be good,” he said. “I kind of look at basketball as a full-time job. If you really want to be the best you have to be dedicated to it 100 percent.
“Playing up here, I was able to be around a lot of good players. I saw what they did and what it took and I fed off that. When I got to Neumann, that summer before I got there we’d have open gym and all kinds of Division I guys and guys that made the NBA would in there playing with us. So I learned a lot from that.
“When I first got up here my sophomore year, I thought I was pretty good. Then we started playing games and I’d look at lot of the other kids and that’s when I knew I had some catching up to do if I was going to progress my game. Not to talk bad about the (Cape-Atlantic League) but in the Catholic League every game is a hard game. There are no easy games. If you don’t come to play, it’s going to be a real hard game to win.”
Hall said he decided to commit to St. Joseph’s after developing a close relationship with Billy Lange, the South Jersey native and former 76ers assistant coach who finished his first season on Hawk Hill this winter.
“Billy was always 100 percent honest with me,” Hall said. “I never even took an official visit to St. Joe’s. After I took my unofficial visit, I knew that’s where I wanted to go. I really like Billy Lange and I trust him. I got to talk to a lot of coaches but when I talked to him it was never always about basketball. We really built a relationship. If you’re going to go play for someone for four years, you need to have those kinds of relationships and those kinds of people around you.”
There’s no doubting that moving to Philadelphia worked for Hall in his basketball development and helped him land a college scholarship. But Hall also believes young players from Cape May County can do the same with the proper dedication.
“I hope at the end of my career I can come back to Wildwood and Cape May County and show kids what it takes,” Hall said.