MOUNT PLEASANT — Jordan Bitzer let his standout play speak for itself while on the basketball court with Unionville-Sebewaing Area and Central Michigan University.
Now, Bitzer is taking that low-key, high-energy focus and using it to teach the game he loves to a team with potential to become a state champion.
The former USA and CMU star is in his first year as an assistant varsity coach at Mount Pleasant Sacred Heart High School.
Bitzer’s friend, MPSH head coach Pat Theisen, offered him the job on the bench right before the season started. It was a chance he couldn’t pass up.
“I really miss playing and just being around the game, so I figured this was a great way to be around it,” Bitzer said. “I feel like I interact with the players pretty well. Joking around with them is pretty easy and understanding what they are thinking at times helps...”
Entering this week, MPSH was 10-1 overall and ranked No. 7 in Class D. There are many of the same kids on the team who played for the Division 8 state championship football squad.
“We have a great group of kids and they are pretty athletic for a small Class D school,” Bitzer said.
Bitzer says his coaching style is a lot like how he played — cool and calm.
“I'm not much of a yeller or screamer, but I try to teach the kids and give them advice,” he said.
“Since this is my first year helping, at first I had to get the hang of how they did things. All basketball teams are different and every coach has a different philosophy, so I was just trying to understand the system. I give my input on drills that we used to run at USA and CMU and try to integrate them to make things more competitive and help strengthen some of the weaknesses we have.”
Bitzer, who is in his last semester taking classes at CMU, is in the process of starting a new chapter in his life.
After a very solid career with the Chippewas, the 2006 USA graduate contemplated playing professionally overseas. This past summer, he and fellow CMU teammate Robbie Harman went out to Las Vegas and played in a pro-am tournament with scouts from all over the world.
But after weighing his options, he decided to stay in the U.S. and finish his schooling.
“I was definitely thinking about going over and playing, but it just didn't work out,” Bitzer explained. “I am still on scholarship, and getting my fifth-year aid was a big factor. A lot of people I talked to told me the more years you take off from school, the harder it would be to come back and finish.
“I really didn't get an offer that was good enough for me to go over (to Europe). I didn't receive any offer until I was two or three weeks into school this past fall and I already started my classes. And the money I would have made would not have been enough to pay for my school when I would have came back.”
Bitzer reflects fondly on his time at CMU. He ranks in the top 20 all-time at the school in scoring, is second all-time in steals and third in three-pointers.
“Obviously, winning more games and having the opportunity to play in the NCAA Tournament would have been nice, but I am pretty happy with how things went,” he said. “I went through some struggles at times, which have made me a better person today. And I realize how blessed I have been with a great family, friends, coaches and teammates. I have definitely learned a lot and can take a lot away from experiences I have had and use them later on in my life. I am happy and thankful I was given the opportunity to represent the Thumb area for four years.”
While he held off this past summer in his quest to play professionally, he still gets the itch every now and again, especially when he gets in the gym with MPSH players.
“I’m not going to lie, I have thought about trying to play basketball again, but it would be hard for me to market myself having taken one year off,” he said.
For now, though, Bitzer’s plans are to finish college and get on with his life — whether it be in or out of basketball.
“I think I may go back to school and get my teaching certificate and pursue a teaching career,” he said. “After the semester is over, I'm going to sit down and talk with my parents and coaches and see what input they may have. I could see myself coming back to the Thumb and coaching and teaching possibly in the future. So we will see...”
|2006 USA graduate Jordan Bitzer (right) has traded in his playing uniform for a seat on the bench as an assistant coach at Mount Pleasant Sacred Heart.|