When Jordan Theodore first signed with Seton Hall out of Paterson (N.J.) Catholic High School two years ago, Pirates coach Bobby Gonzalez said he was as good or better than any senior guard in the state of New Jersey.
It was high praise, but not everyone believed it at the time.
After all, Theodore wasn't a McDonald's All-American like Rutgers commit Mike Rosario, or a point guard on an undefeated team like the St. Anthony duo of Jio Fontan (Fordham) and Travon Woodall (Pittsburgh).
But two years later, Theodore's stock is flying high as he enters his sophomore season with the Pirates.
After watching a recent Seton Hall practice, ESPN analyst Fran Fraschilla said if he could draft any player off the Pirates roster first, it would be Theodore.
"All of a sudden he's blown up a little bit," Gonzalez said last week at Big East media day. "He got stronger. He worked on his outside shooting. He's in great shape right now. He just looks like a guy who's not really a backup. He's a guy that could start at a lot of places.
"I think Jordan is in for a terrific year."
The 6-foot, 175-pound Theodore averaged 5.7 points, 2.0 assists and 1.5 rebounds last season as a backup to Brooklyn native Eugene Harvey.
But he dedicated himself over the summer by waking up every day at 8 a.m., eating a good meal and then beginning a workout at City Sports on 4 in his hometown of Englewood, N.J.
Working with his friend Donald Hennie, a 5-10 guard who played at Seton Hill University in Greensburg, Pa. and professionally overseas, Theodore put up 3,000 shots a day, worked on his dribble and hit the treadmill.
"I just wanted to get better and just wanted to be on the court this season," Theodore said. "That was my whole mindset. I played a lot last year, but coming into this year I just wanted to play more."
Theodore's hard work has paid off and now he's looking and acting like more of a leader.
"I think of him as one of the best conditioned athletes on our team," said junior forward Herb Pope, who is now eligible after transferring from New Mexico State. "He got stronger. He shoots the ball a lot better. His ball-handling has always been good. And he's always played 'D.' His conditioning never really was an issue. It's more experience that he got. He's making better decisions. He's being more vocal. Regardless of whether he comes off the bench or starts, he knows he's the floor general."
Gonzalez will play a variety of combinations, using Harvey and Theodore along with junior shooting guard Jeremy Hazell of Harlem, senior combo guard Keon Lawrence of Newark, senior wing Robert Mitchell of Brooklyn and JUCO shooting guard Jamel Jackson of Brooklyn.
"This year Jordan is going to be a factor and we're going to have to find time for him because he's really stepped it up," Gonzalez said.
The Pirates were picked 10th in the 16-team Big East and have added several new pieces that could potentially make them an NCAA Tournament team.
Three transfers -- Lawrence, Pope and wing Jeff Robinson (Memphis) -- join Jackson, 6-10, 340-pound sophomore center Melvyn Oliver and 6-8 freshman forward Ferrakohn Hall.
Theodore has also served as a pied piper for younger players. His former Paterson Catholic teammate, Fuquan Edwin, an athletic 6-7 senior wing, has committed to the Pirates for next season.
"I'm very excited," Theodore said. "I can't wait to get things started. We're just ready to get things rocking."