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Family ties brought Jordan Wilson back to her home state to play for Arizona volleyball

Arizona volleyball outside hitter Jordan Wilson
Mike Christy / Arizona Athletics

When you’re the No. 2 recruit in your class, you have a lot of options when it comes to playing college sports. Outside hitter Jordan Wilson thought USC volleyball was the right fit for her when she started school in the fall of 2022. It didn’t take long for her to decide that there were things back home in Arizona that she wanted to be closer to while she pursued her college career. The Wildcats were the perfect fit for what she was seeking.

“I’m a huge family person and even though it’s like an hour-and-a-half away from my’s still enough distance to where I can have my own freedom and have my college life or whatever, and then just come home to my family,” Wilson said. “And just being able to see them any weekend that I want to, especially my younger brother. I’m super close to him. He’s like my best friend. He’s eight and I didn’t want to be like that absent sister where I was only in his life for eight years when he’s little and then just disappeared for the rest of his life to continue mine.”

Transferring also eases the demands on Wilson’s parents and grandparents. She said that her grandparents traveled to every home game at USC, but now that trip will be much more convenient. As for her parents?

“They’re really happy because they’re like, ‘You can visit us way more often now. We can come to more of your games,’” Wilson said. “And I was like, ‘I know! I’m so excited.’ So, they’re really happy and they feel much more at ease knowing I’m in the same state, at least. So, if something were to happen, they can just come over fast.”

Those are the kind of things that made the incoming sophomore leave what seemed like an ideal situation. L.A. is certainly not as close to Gilbert as Tucson is, but USC offered the chance to regularly go to the NCAA Tournament and play next to some of the best players in the sport. Arizona hasn’t been to the tournament since 2018. Meanwhile, USC has been to either the AIAW or NCAA tournaments 42 times since 1977. It has six national titles and has gone 82-35 in the NCAA Tournament. It has won its conference eight times. UA can’t touch any of those records.

The change was an odd one for Wilson to navigate. She spent the spring with USC, training and playing in spring tournaments with the team.

“No one at USC knew about it at the time,” Wilson said. “It was just awkward for me because I’m walking around enjoying my time with these girls because a lot of the girls at USC, they’re like sisters to me. I’m very close to them. I still keep in contact with them. But I’m being there and having them just think everything’s perfectly fine...I was really stressing on the time of when to tell them. I told them probably...a day before the day of me telling the coaches I was transferring.”

It was worth the uncomfortable situation for Wilson. In addition to being close to her family and friends, Arizona offers a chance to be in on the rebuilding of the program under new head coach Rita Stubbs, a coach past and current players speak highly of on a personal level. Wilson can put her stamp on a program that is looking to return to its past stature if not reach even greater heights.

“What am I hoping to accomplish?” Jordan asked. “A lot of things. Let’s see. I want us to make it to the tournament this year. And I just want us to have like a really successful season. I think we’re going to be a great team and I’m so excited to see how we grow both on and off the court together. I think that’s gonna be such a fun adventure. I’m really looking forward to it.”

It also allows Wilson to represent her state along with a host of other players from Arizona. She attended camps at UA when she was young and has played against current Wildcats Jaelyn Hodge and Kylie Wong in both club and high school. That trio brings the total number of native Arizonans on the team to six out of 19.

For Stubbs, saying Wilson is an important addition is an understatement. Paired with outside hitter Carlie Cisneros, she gives Arizona the chance to have Prep Volleyball’s No. 1 recruit in the class of 2024 and No. 2 recruit in the class of 2022 when the Wildcats move to the Big 12 next season.

What exactly does Wilson provide that the Wildcats need?

“Athleticism, experience, competitiveness,” Stubbs said. “She’s a winner...Her club team won nationals...[In] order to have a formula to win, you have to have people who have won. It is one thing to say, ‘I want to be a millionaire,’ but if I’ve never been a millionaire, I don’t know what it takes. So, if I want to win, I need people who have won and understand winning and want to compete, and then they can bring other people along.”

Stubbs said that she told the team she would be bringing in more talent when she took the job. While being in touch with the players and developing them as people is important, winning is the real name of the game, and that can’t be done without the kind of talent and competitiveness of players like Wilson.

“I’ve said from day one, you’re gonna love us all you want,” Stubbs said. “We can graduate every kid. We don’t win, I don’t have a job. So, let’s be honest, what am I really thinking about here?”