The Heinold family recently had one of those wonderful moments that high school sports can sometimes supply.
Jordan Heinold of Immaculata Academy in Hamburg was only a basket away from breaking the school record for points in a career of 1,341 during a Jan. 15 game at Pioneer.
“I like to do things in style, I guess you could say,” she said with a self-aware giggle. “I had a couple of misses, and the next shot happened to be a three. … I was coming down the court. I was 4 feet behind the line and I said, ‘You know what? I’m feeling good today.’ So I pulled up and shot, and it went in.
“It was better that way than with a free throw. It was pretty cool.”
The game was immediately stopped in the middle of the third quarter so that a small celebration could take place.
“On my end, we had already talked about what to do,” Immaculata coach Andrea Drabik said. “It wasn’t a home game. But Bill Connelly at Pioneer is such a great coach and a great man that he was going to let us honor her if it happened – stop the clock and say something over the loudspeaker.”
Jordan was promptly surrounded by her teammates, coach, parents and other well-wishers.
“There’s no feeling like it,” she said. “Everyone was very good about it. My coach and the team were really good about making it a special moment.”
There was only one minor flaw, as the former record-holder – Jordan’s sister, Taylor – couldn’t be there. She was on a road trip with her basketball team from Daemen College.
“When she told me she’d be in New York City, I said, ‘Are you kidding me? The gloating won’t be as sweet if you’re not there,’ ” said Jordan, who is quick with a quip and a laugh. “It’s not the same on the phone.”
Still, it was a warm time for all concerned – a moment that was years in the making.
Chris Heinold, the girls’ father, could never get enough basketball.
He scored more than 1,000 points at North Collins High School. From there it was on to Canisius College, where he played in 113 games from 1983 to 1987. That was tied for 13th in the school’s all-time record book entering this season.
After graduation, Chris went on with his life. He got married to Andrea, who checked in at more than a foot under Chris’ 6-foot-7 size. The couple had two daughters – one of them named Jordan. Could a basketball player have been thinking about a certain Chicago Bulls’ superstar when it came to picking a name?
“I’m not sure,” Chris said. “I was a big fan of Michael Jordan, but it wasn’t directly related. The name sort of popped into our heads. We looked at each other and I said, ‘Jordan – do you like it?’ We stuck with it.”
Chris did make sure that his schedule always included some time on the basketball court. He won several championships in the Gus Macker Tournament over the years. When the two girls were old enough, they had a good seat to see their dad play.
“He’d bring us to the Knights of Columbus Hall or another gym, and me and Taylor would just sit in the corner,” Jordan said. “We’d stop for snacks on the way. We’d get a juice box and a bag of chips, and we’d eat, play our Gameboys, and shoot. We were always around the game.”
Eventually, the two sisters decided to try to play organized basketball – and they liked it. Taylor and Jordan picked up a familiar coach along their way, as Dad coached the two girls from fourth grade to eighth grade. That meant Chris had to take a crash course in girls’ basketball, since he hadn’t really seen much of the game over the years. It also meant he’d spend less time playing basketball himself, and more time helping the girls. Chris jokes that he’s still a good shooter today, as long as he’s using the smaller women’s basketball.
“I’ve always tried to support them, even if it’s going out in the backyard and rebounding for them,” he said. “That gets boring. They’d never realize how boring that is for an ex-player. I’ve always looked at it that I’ll do whatever I can to help them get where they want to go.”
If one of the two girls needed extra practice time, there was someone available for one-on-one games just down the hall at home.
“Taylor was always roughing me up,” Jordan said. “She would say, ‘This is a contact sport. I hit you, and you have to suck it up. They aren’t going to always call it, so you’re going to learn to live with it.’
“It wasn’t always fair when I was 9 and she was 12. She was doing crossovers and stuff, and I was just trying to stand on my own two feet. … The games always made us better. She always forced me to my left because she knew it wasn’t my strong hand. It’s good to have an older sibling.”
Eventually, Taylor enrolled at Immaculata, where she made the varsity roster in ninth grade. That prompted a talk between Chris and Coach Drabik. Such conversations happen all the time, but usually the parent isn’t a former Division I player.
“He said they were happy she made varsity and asked what her role would be,” Drabik said. “I remember reassuring him that I wouldn’t have taken her if I didn’t think she was going to play. She was a starter for four years, had more than a thousand points, and was an exceptional player. He was very respectful of my position. He was excited that his daughter made the team. He knew she had the talent, and so did she.”
Around that same time, Jordan had an unexpected development that changed her approach to the game.
“I was really short, but then in sixth or seventh grade, I sprouted 6 or 7 inches,” she said. “And I was like, ‘I’m bigger than everybody else. This is good. This can be a good sport. You don’t have to work at it. You can sit under the basket and wait for the ball to come to you.’ ”
Jordan joined Taylor on the Immaculata roster when she was a freshman, and watched Taylor set the school record for points in a career. Then Jordan went about the business of catching her big sister. That moment came in the middle of her senior season.
“Right after halftime, she missed a couple of shots, so I subbed her out for a minute,” Drabik said. “I said, ‘J, you don’t have to look for it. It’s going to find you.’ She went back in and hit the next bucket. … After the game, she said, ‘Coach, you were so right.’ ”
“My first thought was I was elated for Jordan because it was such a goal for her, but there was a little twinge in me that felt bad for Taylor. She was relinquishing the title,” Chris Heinold said. “Taylor was so awesome about it. She said if it was going to happen, it might as well be Jordan. … To see that come full circle in 3½ years was pretty special.”
There will be the opportunity for more nice basketball moments for the Heinold family down the road. Jordan still has the rest of her senior season left, and there’s a chance that the Bears – one of the top small schools in the area – can make a nice run deep into the postseason.
Meanwhile, Jordan announced in mid-January that she will attend Daemen this fall. That means she’ll have the chance to play with her sister on the intercollegiate level for two full seasons.
“One thing I looked for in a college was staying local,” Jordan said. “I’m close to my family, and I’m close to my sister. We had one year together at school here, so I’m glad to rekindle that and come back together. I’m excited for it.”
Chris added, “I was afraid they’d go off and I’d have to do some major traveling to see them play. I’ve known Dave Skolen,” the head coach at Daemen, “for years. … They grew up going to his camps. They had this bond with him early on. When everything was on the table, they knew they wanted a good coach who has proven himself time and time again.”
There’s only one person who has a regret about the story. Bring up the subject with Drabik, who has had a Heinold on her roster for seven years, and she’ll complete the sentence before you’re done.
“They don’t have a third daughter!” she said before bursting out in laughter. “I said to them, ‘Could you get one more for me?’ ”