Earlier this month, Jordan Roper was in Clemson attending classes and preparing for his senior season of basketball, but his heart was in Irmo with his family.
Like many families in the Columbia area, Roper’s was affected by the horrific flooding that ravaged the Midlands in early October. He was forced to follow the events from a distance through the news and social media.
“It was definitely hard being away and not really knowing what was going on. I just put my faith in God that everything would be OK,” he said. “I get a lot of my traits from my dad, and I know that he’s a strong man. He’s handling everything very well.”
Everyone in Roper’s family survived the flooding, but their house did suffer some damage. They also had a car totaled because of the rain. Still, Roper is aware that it could have turned out much worse.
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“It was horrible, just all of the families that were displaced and whatnot,” he said. “A lot of my ex-teammates from my old high school were texting me and Coach (Tim) Whipple went by my house to check on my family. I hope things get back to normal.”
Normalcy is something that Roper has had to work toward since undergoing a major health scare at the age of 19. A couple of weeks after his freshman season ended, he suffered a stroke that kept him from taking part in any physical activity for more than two months.
Roper traveled with the Tigers for a 10-day trip to Italy that summer and performed well, averaging 16 points per game, but without knowing what caused the stroke, it was always in the back of his head.
“Coming back from it was definitely hard, just mentally thinking about it every day,” he said. “Initially, I didn’t know why it happened or what caused it or anything, and it was a lot to think about.”
Tigers coach Brad Brownell tried to keep Roper’s mind off of what he had gone through, but admitted that it was a difficult situation.
“The stroke and coming back and playing so quickly and a little bit of uncertainty and all of the things that are involved with that is really challenging, probably more difficult than any of us would understand,” Brownell said. “I don’t know if you could understand that if that happened to you and nobody really exactly knew why, and you’re going to go back out and compete.”
Roper has not had any major health scares since the stroke in March of 2013. He said the more time that has passed, the less he has thought about it.
“I look at it now as a phase in my life where I overcame some adversity,” he said. “I don’t think about it at all anymore. I just try to live every day like it’s my last.”
Now a senior, Roper is expected to be a big part of a Clemson team that should be much improved from last season. The Tigers return five of seven players who received significant playing time last year, including leading scorer Jaron Blossomgame.
Roper is expected to play point guard and shooting guard, and Brownell said he has already been contributing as a leader.
“He’s not the most vocal guy on the team by any stretch, but this last three to four months I’ve noticed a little bit of a difference,” Brownell said. “He definitely sets a very good example for our younger players.”
Roper’s minutes and production have slightly declined since his freshman season, but with starting point guard Rod Hall gone, that should change this year.
His speed and quickness cause problems for opposing teams, and he is a very good 3-point and free-throw shooter.
“This offseason I just worked on ball handling and getting up a high volume of shots every day,” he said. “I think my greatest strength is just my speed. I’m really quick and deceptive and I can get away from bigger guys. I think that helps me get separation for my shot and helps me create for other guys on my team.”