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West Chester’s Jordan Kellier receives the Senior Day gift of a lifetime

03/03/2024, 10:00am EST
By Joseph Santoliquito

By Joseph Santoliquito (@JSantoliquito)

WEST CHESTER, PA — Jordan Kellier caught a glimpse in the corner of his eye, unsure what he was seeing. He blinked, and blinked again. It was as if Charmaine Kellier, his mother who he had not seen in person in over a year, rose from an imaginary mist out of the Hollinger Field House stands.

How was this possible, Jordan thought? Weren’t his parents supposed to be back home in his native Kingston, Jamaica, watching West Chester University’s Senior Day on a stream link?

With each step his parents Charmaine and Lynden took towards center court on Saturday to greet their son, the powerfully built 6-foot-5, 220-pound guard melted into a cartoon puddle, his lower jaw bouncing off the Hollinger court a dozen times as he folded into his parents' arms in a mound of tears.

What had been treated as a great state secret within the West Chester basketball program for some time was finally revealed. Jordan topped it off with his 17th double-double of the season, scoring 13 points and grabbing 12 rebounds in the Rams’ 84-63 PSAC win over Bloomsburg.

But that was merely a byproduct of what was a visceral heartfelt moment shared by everyone who witnessed it.

The idea was originally hatched by Charmaine’s conversations with Rams’ head coach Damien Blair during the fall. It was coordinated with great diligence and a wealth of dexterity by West Chester assistant coach Ben Kay, and may not have been possible without West Chester Athletic Director Terry Beattie signing off on it, and Assistant Athletic Director of Compliance Deirdre Bertotti’s steadfast commitment to get the NCAA to allow West Chester to finance the trip.

West Chester senior Jordan Kellier, second from right, poses with his parents Charmaine Kellier and Lynden Kellier and West Chester head coach Damien Blair following Saturday's Senior Day game at Hollinger Field House. (Photo: Joseph Santoliquito/CoBL)

To understand why this was so significant is to know Jordan’s journey.

He came to the United States from Kingston, Jamaica, when he was 16, to attend Redemption Christian Academy in Troy, N.Y. He was recruited to play at the University of Utah, after a year of junior college, then transferred to Siena, where Jordan received his undergraduate degree in business.

He had one more year of eligibility and found West Chester.

“This was a leap of faith, going from Division I to Division II, and I thought it was going to be easy,” Jordan revealed. “I thought this was going to be a cakewalk and it was not. I had to earn this. I had to go back to my character and where I get it, and who I am as a person. I get that from them, my parents. I learned from my mother how to treat people good, no matter who they are, or what they do. I learned about hard work from my father.”

In the years since leaving Jamaica, Jordan would speak to his parents through Zoom calls and WhatsApp.

The missing piece was Charmaine and Lynden never saw their son play basketball in the United States.

That is, until Saturday.

Charmaine had been to the U.S. numerous times, while Lynden, a truck driver, never traveled outside of Jamaica and had never been on a plane before boarding the flight to Philadelphia on Friday afternoon.

Jordan had wanted his parents to watch him for a while. It almost did not happen. There were calls, and emails, and myriad hushed conversations in trying to keep the plan away from Jordan. Bertotti had to wait on the NCAA’s waiver approval to allow West Chester to pay for the trip. Kay and the Rams’ coaching staff did not get it until Thursday afternoon, which led to a mad scramble.

Kay called Charmaine Thursday night that they would have a flight booked for Friday morning from Montego Bay. They were urged to travel light. Kay picked up Charmaine and Lynden at the airport Friday evening and drove them to West Chester.

“Jordan is just a great kid, and truthfully, this is what college basketball and college sports is all about,” Kay said. “The wins and losses are great, but moments like this live forever. We really wanted to make this happen. Coach Blair and myself were willing to do anything. It’s been a lot of calls, updates, and it’s like we did not even have a game today.

“It is a moment everyone will remember.”

Especially the Kelliers.

“I had no idea my parents were going to be here,” said Jordan, who is working on his master’s degree in public administration. “My team was going to walk with me in place of my parents for Senior Day. That was the plan. Then I saw coach Blair’s wife (Carolyn) come out and she was going to walk with me. I was in the back of the player’s line. I didn’t know anything, until I saw my mom first.

“I thought this didn’t make any sense. Was this really happening? Then I saw my dad, and I thought, ‘No way.’ My parents never saw me play a college game. I had no clue. I turned into a crying baby in front of all these girls (laughs).”

Charmaine Kellier and Lynden Kellier sit in the stands at West Chester Hollinger Fieldhouse after traveling from Kingston, Jamaica to watch their son Jordan play on Senior Day. (Photo: Joseph Santoliquito/CoBL)

Blair met with Jordan’s parents on Friday night. He says that is when he got a little choked up. It struck him that Jordan’s parents had never seen him play before, and he, of all people, has a greater appreciation of that, since he had the luxury of watching his son, Dylan, now at Army, star for nearby Downingtown West for years.

“Imagine doing anything for 10 years, grinding, and grinding, and never being able to share that with your family,” Blair said. “That’s what got me choked up. It’s an appreciation for Jordan to persevere through some tough times without his family. We couldn’t take Jordan home to Jamaica, but we thought we could take his parents here. Jordan wanted it to happen on Senior Day. We had been in the works to make this happen.

“The initial plan came from Charmaine, and Jordan and I spoke about the possibility of his parents coming here in September. We pushed, and pushed, and pushed and our AD, Terry Beattie, agreed that if we could get the waiver from the NCAA to finance the trip, we would do it.

“There were a lot of people that made this happen. Deirdre did a phenomenal job to make it happen. We had to put this in a big, quick bow in such a quick period of time behind the scenes. Not many people could make it as long as Jordan did on his own without the foundation of his parents. People don’t understand the struggles people sometimes have.”

During the game, Charmaine and Lynden’s eyes never left their son. Charmaine could not sit, cheering every score and every play, while Lynden sat happily stoic, arms folded with a pleased grin.

“I watched Jordan with various teams (on streaming links), but this team here is a family and I could feel the love and how genuine they are,” Charmaine said. “Coach Blair is a real genuine man. I am happy my son plays for him. There is something here, the presence of God in this place. What a gift.”

Lynden seemed relieved. He did not know what to expect, each step was like entering a new world.

“And it wound up being a dream coming true,” he said. “I got a little emotional. The West Chester team, the whole community, really took us in. It was amazing. It’s something we’ll never forget.”

Charmaine and Lynden get to spend the weekend with their son, and are scheduled to return to Jamaica on Tuesday. They will do so toting more than what they came with—Jordan’s framed No. 24 West Chester jersey and a mountain of unforgettable memories.

Joseph Santoliquito is a hall of fame, award-winning sportswriter based in the Philadelphia area who began writing for CoBL in 2021 and is the president of the Boxing Writers Association of America. He can be followed on Twitter here.

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