A redshirt freshman from San Ramon, Calif., Jordan Giusti has quickly become a fan favorite. A walk-on guard, he was a well-known local high school playmaker who has become a hard-nosed defender and one of the most energetic players on the floor.
SMCGaels.com caught up with Jordan recently to get to know him a bit.
Q: You were a pretty well-known high school player. Describe your pre-Saint Mary's career.
A: "I played on the freshman team, mainly because all my friends were on the freshman team so I didn't even try out for the JV team. I think our freshman team was a little better than our JV team at that time. My sophomore year, the coach wanted me to tryout for varsity. I did and I made it. I think my coach saw the potential I had and was a little tough on me that year. That was when I realized I could play at the next level. I started a lot of games that year and I got some great experience. That year I was noticed by (AAU team) Lakeshow, so I was able to play against better players and that got me ready for my junior year.
"I was a backup as a junior because we had a really good team. My senior year, I wasn't really a knock-down shooter. I looked to score when I could, but that wasn't my main role."
Q: What were some of the main differences in your role in high school versus what you see now in college?
A: "In high school, the ball would be in my hands every possession. I would be more like the playmaker. Now, my role is to pressure as much as I can on defense - kind of that hype guy. In high school I wouldn't always be that guy. I would be a spark whenever I could be, but I didn't have as much energy since I was playing the entire time. Right now, it is a different game for me. On offense, the ball isn't running through my hands every play. I am spotting up to be ready to knock down a shot if I am open or make smart plays and not turn the ball over. Any role I can get on this team is great. Obviously, it is a big step up from where I have been. I wasn't expecting to be 'the guy.'"
Q: You had a solid defensive game against Anthony Ireland of LMU. That opened people's eyes to your defensive ability. Are you a defensive specialist now?
A: "I think I've improved defensively by guarding these guys every day. Guarding guys like Delly, Holt, Jordey and James every day. I've always enjoyed a challenge, guarding quicker guys. Even in high school, I think I always liked to guard the shorter, quick guys. I'm one of the smaller guys. But, I have quick feet and decent length. I have something like a 6'-5" wingspan. So, it was harder for the smaller guys to shoot over me. I have confidence in knowing I guard Delly and the guys in practice every day."
Q: Are there ever times when your opponent underestimates you?
A: "It is pretty much a fact that every time I go into the game, they are going to go right at me. So, when I go into the game, I need to be ready. There was one game, at Utah State I think, the guy took it right at me and he scored although he hadn't been looking to score the whole game. So, from that point on I have just been taking a lot more pride in getting off to a good start. You look at me and you are going to think I am a vulnerable defender. So, I have to bring it every day."
Q: Do you work hard in practice, being a walk-on?
A: "I think our entire team works hard to make each other better. So, that isn't anything that I do particularly. Our whole team works hard to get better. The harder you work, the better your results would be."
Q: When was the first time you attended a Saint Mary's game?
A: "It was a while ago. I think I was a freshman in high school. It was when Omar (Samhan) was playing. I knew it was a really good program at that time. When I was younger, I never really thought of myself being able to play at Saint Mary's. I knew Omar and I was going to have just fun at the games. Honestly, I didn't think I would ever go to Saint Mary's. When I played in some open gyms and the opportunity came up that I could play here, it was something I just couldn't pass up."
Q: You mention Omar. What kind of reputation does he have in San Ramon?
A: "I knew who he was when he started playing varsity. I frequently went to San Ramon games. I knew Omar's story. He went to Monte Vista (High School). They pretty much told him he wouldn't be able to make varsity there. So, he ended up going to San Ramon and killin' it. I was always a big fan of Omar's. He actually used to coach me at some youth camps. The varsity players at kid's camps would coach at San Ramon. So, now it is kind of weird to see him at practice. He still helps me out, so that's great."
Q: So, did any of Omar's personality rub off on you?
A: "He will definitely speak his mind. He is not afraid to tell people what is on his mind. I'm not afraid to do that, but he is a lot more outgoing than I am. He really gives back to the guys, though. He helps a lot by being around, giving advice, playing with the guys. We really appreciate what he does for us."
Q: What are some of your interests outside of basketball.
A: "I like a lot of things. I relax a lot. I like going to movies. I've seen pretty much every movie that is out. I like playing ping-pong. I play pool in the De La Salle Lounge, when it's open. Stuff like that I am pretty low-key."
Q: What are your favorite movies that you've seen recently?
A: "That's a tough one. I actually really like Silver Linings Playbook with Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence from Hunger Games. I thought it was funny. I also like Django Unchained. I like action movies."
Q: Do you see yourself being a movie critic one day?
A: "Definitely. I also love music and watching all the music shows, like The Voice, The Singoff, American Idol."
Q: So, can you sing?
A: "Absolutely not! I am more into recognizing talent."
Q: We spoke with Paul McCoy recently and he mentioned that he was looking forward to playing you in table tennis. Have you guys played yet?
A: "I've been at his house because I has a nice table, him and Zach (Sanchez). I went over the other day and I was playing everyone else and beating them. But, he wasn't there. I want a rematch, because he beat me earlier in the year at Coach Bennett's house. The conditions weren't favorable. It was outdoors and the wind was blowing. I am more of an indoor player. At the same time, he is really good and it will be a tough matchup."
Q: We hear you are pretty popular on campus. Is that true?
A: "I probably had a few more friends last year when I was a freshman. A lot of the sophomores come out to the games. I am more laid-back, so I'm around a lot more. I hang out in the dining hall and enjoy being there visiting with people the entire time it is open. I think the more friends you make, the better. Saint Mary's is a small school, so the more people you know the better off you will be. It is also big for networking. Getting to know as many people as you can is helpful. You never know where you are going to go."
Q: Do you ever find yourself trying to convince people that you do, in fact, play basketball at Saint Mary's?
A: "Sometimes when people see my sweatshirt, they think I am a manager or something. I never really go around telling people that I play. I don't feel that's really necessary. If you watch a game, you'll see. I don't want people just to know me as a basketball player. At the same time, it is pretty cool."
Q: What is your major and what do you want to do after you finish college?
A: "I am a sport management major. I'd really like to work in sports. I'm not exactly sure of which path I'd like to take. But, I love sports and would like to make a career of it - particularly in the business area of sports."
Q: We hear you played a lot of soccer growing up?
A: "Yeah, I played a lot of soccer. That was a joke when I was growing up. If I wasn't doing well, I'd say I was quitting and going back to soccer. A lot of people thought that was my best sport growing up, and even into high school. I was a forward and if you are a forward you are the one scoring all the goals and getting all the assists. So, you get noticed a lot. I didn't tryout for the top teams, but the coaches would ask me to play. Soccer is a sport I always loved. If basketball wasn't working out, I could see myself going back to soccer."
Q: Who is your favorite professional soccer player?
A: "It has to be (Lionel) Messi. He is the guy. Everyone talks about (Cristiano) Ronaldo or Ronaldinho. But, Messi is the best. I have never been big into watching soccer, or basketball for that matter. I was always someone who loved to play but never really watched on TV. I am big on watching baseball, though. The Giants are my favorite team by far. I like watching football, too. The Niners are my favorite team. But, by far, the Giants are my favorite sports team. My family is from San Francisco. My grandparents and my dad raised me to like the Niners, Giants and Warriors."
Q: Thanks for your time Jordan and good luck with the rest of the season.