Leadership Learned On and Off the Court


How Jordan Bonner Helped Inspire Delaware College Scholars

Last month, we had the opportunity to cheer along as former Delaware College Scholars (DCS) head student advisor Jordan Bonner scored his 1,000th point for Wesleyan University, a prestigious liberal arts college located in Middletown, CT.

A St. Andrew’s School alumnus originally from Texas, Jordan also considers Delaware, and the DCS program, home.

A huge athletic career milestone like scoring 1,000 points gave us the opportunity to reflect on Jordan’s impact on our program, the impact our scholars had on Jordan, and how closely aligned college access and college success is with success on the court.

Before DCS: High School Basketball and Hard, Hard Work

Frustrated after a disappointing loss to PolyTech High School in the second round of the 2012 DIAA boys basketball state tournament, Jordan, then a freshman reserve for St. Andrew’s School, asked then-assistant coach Tony Alleyne, “How can I improve and become a more consistent player?”

Dr. Alleyne, excited that Jordan wanted to work hard and improve his game simply stated, “You gotta become best friends with gym. See you tomorrow morning at 5:30.”

“Morning?” Jordan asked, hoping that he misheard Dr. Alleyne.“See you then,” Dr. Alleyne replied.

Jordan, who enjoyed sleeping in like most 15-year-olds, listened to Dr. Alleyne and made sure to meet him at the gym each morning, 5:30 am sharp. At the gym, Alleyne introduced Jordan to basic lifts while also incorporating a variety of conditioning circuits, the worst of which involved a treadmill – and the dreaded “nine, nine, nines.”  “Set your treadmill at nine miles per hour, set the incline on nine and sprint for one minute, rest one minute. Nine times. Sounds easy, but you’re gasping for air around minute four or five,” said Jordan.

Tempted to quit after his first few sessions of “nine, nine, nines” and the ever-dreadful leg days, Jordan continued to show up and saw the results. He became a more explosive, stronger athlete who wound up scoring over 1,000 career points in high school, earned all-conference accolades and played in two more state tournaments throughout his high school years.

Though DCS had yet to exist in the spring of 2012, Dr. Alleyne took the same approach with Jordan he does all of his scholars – he pushed Jordan to the best of his potential; served as a valued mentor and friend; encouraged success and hard work; and demonstrated the value of commitment.

And for Jordan, he learned a set of skills that stick with him both on and off the court: perseverance; commitment; time and stress management; focus; and respect.

Athletic Training Becomes College Advisement

Jordan, who credits a lot of his high school success to Dr. Alleyne and those early morning gym sessions, valued the conversations with Dr. Alleyne the most.

“The best part of those workouts weren’t the actual workouts. It was the bond we formed, being in the gym every day with one another. He taught me a lot about life, how to become a leader and, ultimately, how to walk through the college application process and choose the best college fit for me. He’s one of the main reasons I chose Wesleyan,” said Jordan.

As DCS participants know, college graduation hinges on more than just getting accepted to a school – it’s about finding the right college fit, too. For Jordan, Wesleyan was the perfect fit as it enabled him to take a variety of classes in numerous subjects, be a member of a diverse campus and play the game that he loved since he was a child.

Reflecting back, Dr. Alleyne notes how his work with Jordan was very similar to the experience our scholars see today in our program. From improving the life skills that will help a student succeed in college and beyond to really unpacking what the college application and selection process is; Jordan and Dr. Alleyne both were unknowingly creating the very beginnings of what would become the foundations of the Delaware College Scholars program.

Overcoming Barriers: On and Off the Court

As our scholars know, the very things some individuals see as a deficit or detriment are often the things that shape our scholars into  high-achieving and highly-motivated individuals poised for success. For some, it’s financial resources or extenuating circumstances. For Jordan, it was lack of playing time mixed with a myriad of injuries to his knees.

At Wesleyan, Jordan spent most of his freshman season on the bench and his sophomore season cut short due to a knee injury. Frustrated, and feeling as though the results weren’t matching the work he was putting in, Jordan called his mentor, Dr. Alleyne to simply talk things over. One hour later, Jordan left the conversation with a month-long summer internship at Dr. Alleyne’s newly-created Delaware College Scholars.

So began the hard work of rehabbing his knee while becoming the head student advisor for Delaware College Scholars. Jordan would wake up each morning at 5:30am to rehabilitate and strengthen his knee. He then taught classes, answered curious students’ questions about college and helped students with their studies during study hall until 9:00 pm. After 9:00 pm, he was back in the gym for another two hours for more rehab and strength training.

While Jordan knew coming back to St. Andrew’s campus and working directly with Dr. Alleyne would be great for his athletic career and his resume for future employers; he didn’t expect to be so impacted by the students he worked with. He explains, “I really enjoyed my work as a student advisor, learning about each scholar and their unique story. It was great to not only hear their stories but share a little bit about my story and lend any advice that I might have in regard to the college process. Plus, to give back to Tony after what he’s done for me. I’m happy he gave me another great opportunity. It inspired me to continue to do more.”

And he sure has done more to impact those around him. Bonner, along with a few of his teammates and friends, started the Cardinal Community Classic at Wesleyan University to raise money to support cancer patients with financial needs. The Classic, a three-on-three basketball tournament held at Wesleyan University, raised over $3,000 and will be back in the spring of 2019 with the goal of raising $10,000.

Athletics or Academics: Barriers Can Become Successes When You Work Hard

For every student Jordan has advised to his continuing to give back as a student athlete in his Wesleyan community, we’re not only proud to have Jordan as an ambassador of the program; but grateful that he and Dr. Alleyne met on the court back in 2012.  It’s evident that their interactions helped create so much of what is DCS today.

And not only are we proud. Wesleyan Coach Joseph Reilly had this to say about Bonner and what he’s meant to the Wesleyan University basketball program, “In all my time here at Wesleyan, there has been no other student-athlete who has impacted our program, our campus and the Middletown community more than Jordan Bonner.”

Jordan, like many Delaware College Scholars, embodies just how perceived roadblocks can become major successes. Whether it’s an injury or income level, these barriers can shape us to become highly successful. As Dr. Alleyne always instills in us, when you work hard, study hard, seek advice, ask questions and work hard again – success is always possible!

If you would like to donate to the Cardinal Community Classic, please click here.