What can Jordan Minor be for Virginia?
How Merrimack's beloved big man will translate — and how fast — to a Cavaliers team that needs him
They called him Mr. Merrimack. If you’re looking for a tidy summary on the impact Jordan Minor had at his previous school, well, there’s your first clue. And what’s funny is the person who shares this information, Merrimack coach Joe Gallo, is by far the more obvious candidate for the title.
After all, it is Gallo who has spent most of his adult life advancing the interests of Merrimack men’s basketball, as both student and professional. He was a guard for the Warriors from 2000 to 2004, an assistant coach from 2005 to 2009, and has been the head coach since 2016. After three successful tournament seasons in Division II, he led Merrimack up to Division I, where the Warriors not only didn’t struggle the way most new teams do but set an NCAA record for most wins in a season by a newly elevated program.
A year ago, after a brutal 3-14 start, Gallo’s team won 15 of its last 17 games and the NEC tournament in the final year of their ineligibility for NCAA championship selection. (Content warning for Purdue fans: That ineligibility is what put NEC runner-up Fairleigh Dickinson in the NCAA Tournament bracket. Sorry! You were content-warned!) The Warriors ended their season with the nation’s longest winning streak: 11 games. UConn was second, with six.
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Merrimack is scaling previously unthinkable heights, is the point, and under the leadership of a beloved alum. Folks are quite pleased with their coach! And yet it was Minor — a crucial piece in those first four seasons at this level, sure, but nonetheless merely a player — whom everyone nicknamed after the school.
“People always say their kids work,” Gallo said. “But he’s insane. There were times when I thought he might have slept in the locker room before practice started, he’d been in the facility for so long. He would do anything to be a better player.
“He was always around. And his social life was, like, he’d film a women’s volleyball game, or run the hockey stats to make some extra money. Everybody on campus knew him, and he only ever had one thing on his mind: being a better player.”
Which is why, after four seasons of success and growth (and COVID-19, and no chance to play in the NCAA Tournament), when Minor decided it was time for a new adventure, nobody in North Andover, Mass. begrudged him. Gallo and the player spent as much time together as ever, working through portal options to find the right fit. He chose Virginia, not only an elite program but one where he would have the opportunity to play, to maybe even start — where he would be a crucial piece again, only at a much more challenging level.
Digging deep into Minor’s film, trying to understand what he can bring to Virginia’s rotation, you see one thing immediately: He mastered the NEC. He was the 2022-23 Co-Player of the Year in the league and the defensive POY. He was too good. In 2023-24, though, he has to adapt to the ACC, where his size is the standard, and to Tony Bennett, whose system he’s frantically cramming to learn.
“As a kid, you dream of being on the biggest stages: March Madness, the high majors, the power five,” Minor said. “These are two very different leagues.”
Whether he can thrive on this new stage, and how quickly, constitutes one of the more interesting and pivotal transfer stories anywhere in 2023-24 — and will play a decisive role in how far this intriguing but unproven Virginia group can go.
Minor has already made himself a good player. Now: How much better can he get? And how fast?