I first heard of Jordan McCabe 8 years ago, my friends had done a workout with him and were blown away by what this 11 year old could do with a basketball. The next year he was on Ellen showing off his handles. A few weeks later he did a halftime show at a Warriors game. Now the bar for fame isn’t necessarily high in Kaukauna, but as a 12 year old Jordan had vaulted it with ease. As his high school career approached, there was a palpable excitement that could be felt throughout the town.
Jordan never succumbed to hype or expectations, he had a standout freshman year being named second team all conference as Kaukauna tallied up a 20-4 record including a victory over Henry Ellenson’s Rice Lake squad. Kaukauna would go on to lose the regional final to West De Pere, but Jordan’s freshman season was one that had the entire town a buzz. This summer Jordan would get his first high major offers from Missouri and West Virginia.
So rarely in sports, does someone not only meet, but exceed the expectations that fans place on them. Fans as a group are overly hopeful and believe that all of their players will be stars. We see this in draft season every year that as a player enters a new team, the expectations placed on them are often lofty and totally unfair. McCabe was expected to be so many things at Kaukauna, and as his high school career comes to a close the only thing surprising about his career is that he was all of those things and more.
His sophomore year is one that will be forever remembered by high school basketball fans in Wisconsin, Jordan averaged 25 points a game as Kaukauna went 26-2 on their way to a state title. McCabe won FVA player of the year and was named first team all conference. Their closest playoff game came in the sectional semi-final as they beat Pulaski by a mere 17 points. This team was on fire from the moment they tipped off the post-season and left no doubt who the best team in Division 2 was. Jordan had another great summer on the AAU circuit with the Wisconsin Playground Warriors and would get offered by Minnesota the spring of his sophomore year.
Kaukauna the town is well known for one thing, the distinct smell. When you tell someone you are from Kaukauna if they have of heard of it, and that is a big if, it will be because of the smell. Well that is up until recently, after Jordan’s sophomore year he became a household name in Wisconsin. Now when I would introduce myself to people, they’d say “Hey isn’t that where that McCabe kid is from?” He changed the perception of our town.
McCabe’s junior year ended in a close sectional final loss to a talented Cedarburg team, McCabe averaged 25 a game on his way to being unanimous first team all conference. McCabe would play for the Wisconsin Playground Warriors for his final AAU season in the Under Armour Association. He had a standout season there finishing as the circuit’s assist leader.
I’ve gone to high school basketball games for a dozen years, never have I seen someone fill the gym quite like McCabe does. It is more than just a contest every game is a highlight reel, few players (especially guards) can make a YouTube highlight video off every game, Jordan does it with ease. His ability to fill the gymnasium with people never fails to impress, Kaukauna added additional bleachers, but still managed to sell out a bunch of games this season. His consistency in scoring and showing out every game is what has endeared this city to him, they love watching him play.
His senior year, expectations were high again, Kaukauna returned a great team and La Crosse Central, the reigning D2 champs, lost their two leading scorers. The Ghosts currently sit at 23-3, two wins away from the program’s second championship. Their three losses come to Oshkosh North (the D1 favorite), Kimberly (ranked top 10 in D1), and Upson Lee (a Georgia team that won state there and currently riding a 62 game win streak). They are the one seed at the state tournament and are the favorite to take home another golden ball. McCabe will end his varsity career in the top 15 (if not 10) in state history for scoring. Was named Co-FVA player of the year with Iowa State commit Tyrese Haliburton, but the accolades do not end with basketball.
A story about McCabe would be incomplete if it stopped on the court, he has done so much for the Kaukauna community. If you ever went to a game and stuck around for a bit, he will talk to anyone who wants to. He takes pictures and signs autographs until they shut the lights off, he’s never been “too big” for Kaukauna. He cares about the people in this community and the next generation. Perhaps the best thing he did in his time at Kaukauna was the Hoops 2 Help fundraiser, which raised approximately $25,000 for charity.
When you have an athlete where production on court lives up to hype and they leverage their fame to do good things in the community, then you’ve got Jordan McCabe.