Leadership can be embodied in several different forms. For Penn women’s basketball freshman forward Jordan Obi, her leadership takes shape in how she has handled challenges and inspired her teammates.
The forward played all four years of high school at Choate Rosemary Hall, tallying over 1,000 points and helping Choate to the New England Prep School Athletic Conference (NEPSAC) Class A final during her sophomore season. Despite these accomplishments, her high school career wasn’t always as simple as it seems for the two-time NEPSAC Class A All-Star.
As a senior, Obi suddenly had to adjust to a new head coach. Following three successful years under her previous head coach, Obi faced uncertainty as to what her senior season would look like under Donta Johnson, especially after the team lost seven players to graduation.
As one of only two seniors on the team, Johnson looked to Obi as a leader for the younger athletes. Obi was named co-captain of the team and was trusted by her coaching staff and her teammates.
“We allowed the captains to manage the players, and I owe her a lot of credit for that happening,” Johnson said. “A lot of people gravitated towards Jordan because she was the best player on our team.”
Obi made the head coach transition easier for both Johnson and her teammates, as Choate went 15-11 in her final season. This was despite the fact that the team’s starting point guard was sidelined halfway through the season with an injury, and Obi was only one of two players with any varsity basketball experience.
Obi has never been the loudest one on the court, even describing herself as an introvert. While she may not have been the most verbal leader on the court, she instead leads by example, whether it was hustling for second-chance opportunities or playing out of position. Her dedication to improving her skills and aggressiveness on the court is what made her the leader she is.
“She was willing to get up at 6 o’clock in the morning to run on the track, which wasn’t something she was accustomed to,” Johnson said. “That was a way in which she began her leadership. Others saw that Jordan was doing things that she may not have done the previous year.”
Obi is not the only athlete in her family. Obi’s older brother, Jonah, also grew up playing basketball with her and is now a sophomore guard at Colby College.
“We’re very competitive, so playing one-on-one often turned into fights, but it was good to have someone there to practice and workout with,” Obi said.
After graduating from Choate, Obi’s family decided to move from Connecticut across the country to California. The typical difficulties associated with moving were compounded due to the circumstances surrounding the pandemic. Obi had to adapt to life on a different coast, while also adjusting to the virtual Ivy League workload and staying connected with her new teammates virtually.
“I was definitely excited because Connecticut is a bit boring, and at that point, I was set to go to Penn,” Obi said. “It was a weird mix of emotions for me. If school was set to be on, I would have been happy moving to campus, but if it was canceled how it was, I was happy to move to California."
In January, Obi made the move to campus and has finally been able to practice with her teammates at the Palestra.
“It’s been really good. It was a bit of a shock to the system, I’m not going to lie, since it’s been so long,” Obi said. “But it was good to feel sore again and be on the court again. I just love the atmosphere.”
Although the pandemic has made the future season of women’s basketball uncertain, Obi is ready to tackle any adversity the future presents and bring her quiet leadership style to Penn.
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