Jordan Mach could have easily succumbed to the temptation and few would have blamed him.
Three years ago, while in the fall of his senior year at Antigo High School, Mach decided to attend UW-Parkside and play basketball for the Rangers.
Mach had established a rapport with Parkside coach Luke Reigel and was convinced he would fit nicely into the Rangers’ style of play.
But after Mach’s outstanding senior season, when he averaged 29.4 points a game, several schools tried their best to lure him away from Parkside.
“There were a lot of schools, Division II schools and Division I schools, that were trying to change my mind,” Mach said. “Green Bay was one of them. They came after me after I committed to Parkside.”
So why didn’t Mach, a sharp-shooting guard, change his mind? Why did he bypass an opportunity to play at the Division I level instead of D-II Parkside?
It’s called integrity.
“I didn’t want to be that guy who said something and then did something else,” Mach said.
Suffice to say, Reigel is ecstatic Mach was a man of his word. Reigel expected Mach to make an immediate impact at Parkside and he did.
In Mach’s freshman season, he started all 27 games and was a consistent scoring threat, reaching double digits in 20 games. He was chosen the Great Lakes Valley Conference Freshman of the Year, the first Ranger to receive the honor.
Mach appeared on his way to becoming one of the top players in Parkside history when he followed up his fabulous freshman season with an impressive start to his sophomore season. But then the unthinkable occurred. In the Rangers’ 11th game of the 2011-2012 season, Mach stormed to the basket for a layup, but wound up on the floor, writhing in pain.
“I was planting my leg to go up for a layup when the guy guarding me chucked me a little,” Mach said. “I heard a pop (in my knee). I knew something was wrong; it hurt pretty bad. But I didn’t think it was going to be that bad.”
Mach not only tore the anterior cruciate ligament, he also tore the meniscus in his left knee. His season was instantly over; his playing career was in serious jeopardy.
“We were 7-3 at the time and playing really well,” Reigel said. “It was just a real blow for our team.
“After someone hurts a knee like that, you never know about the future. It wasn’t just a clear tear and it wasn’t going to be an easy rehab for him.”
But Mach vowed to come back. He underwent knee surgery in Milwaukee. The procedure was performed by Dr. Michael Gordon, a medical advisor for the Milwaukee Bucks.
During his recovery, Mach acknowledged there were moments of frustration that were almost unbearable. That was especially the case last season when he sat out and watched the Rangers win the GLVC East Division title for the first time and advance to the NCAA Division II tournament, losing in the first round to Michigan Tech 86-75. The Rangers finished with a 20-9 record.
“It sucked I couldn’t play last season because of how we did,” said the 6-foot-3, 190-pound Mach. “I just didn’t feel I was ready to play at my highest level yet last year.”
Fortunately for Mach, he had a good support group which helped him through some trying times. Kenny Wilka, Parkside’s director of sports medicine, worked diligently with him. Gordon kept in constant contact and offered moral support. “Dr. Gordon not only fixed me but he helped me a lot with the mental part of this,” Mach said. “He was always telling me I was doing well and getting better. He’d talk to me or text me to see how I was doing. We had a pretty good relationship.”
And then there were Mach’s parents, Karen and Tom. Mach talks to them almost daily and sees them frequently during the basketball season. Karen and Tom religiously travel to see Jordan’s games whether at Parkside or on the road.
“I am very, very close to them; they’re my No. 1 fans,” Mach said of his parents. “I think they’ve missed only two or three of my games my entire college career. They have shown a lot of support and it means a lot to me.”
Mach obviously means a lot to the Rangers. Now fully recovered from his knee injury, Mach is having another banner season for the 6-1 Rangers. He is averaging 15.1 points a game, a fraction behind Zygi Riauka’s team-leading 15.7 points. In addition, Mach is averaging 3.9 rebounds and a team-leading 30.3 minutes per game.
“I think he’s off to a very good start,” Reigel said of Mach. “If he was getting five, six, seven more shots a game, he would be one of the leading scorers in the league.
“But we’re so balanced and have a lot of weapons. And he understands when and when not to take shots. And he’s doing a lot of other good things besides shooting.
“He was out so long that you worried if he’d ever get back to his previous playing ability. He clearly has.”