There’s a good chance if you’re a fan of Mississippi State women’s basketball that Jordan Danberry put a smile on your face at some point the last three years. The athletic guard did it all for the Bulldogs. She scored. She defended. She didn’t sell concessions, but she’d have probably excelled at it if she had.
Turns out, it’s not just on the basketball court where Danberry is Ms. Everything. Now that she’s moved on from MSU, Danberry is hoping to be even more productive than ever in ways much bigger than basketball.
“I’m just keeping myself busy,” Danberry said with a laugh to Cowbell Corner.
Busy is an understatement. If Danberry gets her way, she’ll be impacting lives for years to come.
First things first. Danberry isn’t at all done with basketball. In fact, she’s planning to play professionally overseas in the Euro League this fall/winter. Right now though, there’s still some uncertainty with all that as the world tries to find normalcy in the midst of the ongoing novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
“I’m just kind of working out,” Danberry said. “My agents, they get back and forth with me about a couple of different countries they’ve been in contact with (for me to play in) but nothing is really finalized yet. We’re just waiting on that process because other countries have a lot of things going on as well. So yeah, just kind of waiting.”
Whatever team Danberry winds up on, she’ll be giving them a player that knows how to perform and knows how to win. Danberry won a pair of Southeastern Conference championships, an SEC Tournament championship and was a part of two Final Four runs for the Bulldogs in her three years at the school. Along the way she picked up numerous individual honors.
Maybe the biggest thing she grabbed at MSU though was her two degrees – one in business economics before later earning a Master of Business Administration.
All of it, both the basketball and the education in the classroom, prepared Danberry for her next steps. That’s steps, with an ’s’. Because Danberry’s goals are wide-reaching.
Making an impact in Mississippi
Yes, basketball remains part of Danberry’s longterm plan. After all, it’s one of the big reasons she’s even able to pursue all she wants to do.
“It’s just using that platform,” Danberry said.
Danberry of course rose to her highest prominence on the court while at MSU with the Bulldogs. Her time in Starkville helped Danberry – who is originally from Conway, Arkansas – see Mississippi as a special place. So what better way to treat a place you love than to make it better? That’s exactly what Danberry wants to do.
She sees an educational achievement gap between Mississippi and other states. Danberry wants to do all she can to give underprivileged Mississippians a better chance at academic success.
“I actually want to bring a charter school to Mississippi,” Danberry said. “I feel like the education system is at least a little behind. There’s a lot of drop off, in the Delta region especially. So I just feel like it’s a big drop because of the income levels and the poverty level as well. I just feel like to create change, you have to help out the weakest link. So if Mississippi has some of the lowest rates with poverty and all types of things that are underlying education, I fell like you’ve got to start there.”
Danberry might be an Arkansas girl first, but the Magnolia State left a piece of itself with Danberry while she was in it so Danberry insists on returning the favor with the eventual charter school.
“Mississippi has been so good to me and Starkville I feel like is a second home for me so I definitely want to give back to it,” Danberry said.
Danberry isn’t disillusioned. This isn’t something she can just snap her fingers and bring into existence. But Danberry is determined as she lays the groundwork for a better Mississippi.
“It’s all in my mind, but I’ve definitely looked at a couple of different things, looking at what I can do and where and how to start and that sort of thing,” Danberry said. “It’s looking at the land and where will be the best area and looking at some of the demographics. I’ve definitely done my research. It’s also expensive to have it. So it’s not about to get off the ground just yet, but soon.”
Making an impact at home
Danberry has her hands in many projects. In addition to the charter school in Mississippi, she’s also launching a kids sports apparel business. Danberry intends to help nonprofit organization Samaritan’s Feet International as well. The group washes the feet of impoverished children and adorns them with new shoes.
Danberry is excited about all of her plans, but says the project she feels the closest to, if she had to pick one, is one based in her home state of Arkansas called Conducting Creativity. It’s an organization created to help inspire creative minds and is centered around innovation, leadership and entrepreneurship.
Recently, Conducting Creativity held Skills and Drills Basketball and Entrepreneurial Camp in Arkansas. It featured Danberry and other Division I athletes, as well as business owners, artists and mentors. The camp broke kids into groups and put them in stations discussing topics like finances, creativity and being your own boss. The event kept kids plugged in using physical activity and competition, and later, the kids got the chance to enhance their own basketball performance as well as meet college players.
It’s a camp Danberry and the rest of the Conducting Creativity group wants to take on the road from city to city and partner with local athletes and business owners as a way for those people to give back to their communities, the way Danberry loves giving back to hers.
“I’ve just kind of always been involved in my own community growing up,” Danberry said. “It’s near to my heart.”
Managing it all
So how does one go about pursuing professional basketball and trying to start a charter school and being a key member of nonprofit organizations and beginning a clothing business and all the rest that Danberry is involved with? Danberry credits her years with the Bulldogs for helping her learn how to balance her time.
“I think I’m able to manage it all just from the practice of time management from playing basketball, especially playing for (former MSU head coach Vic Schaefer),” Danberry said. “We stayed busy. We were always scheduled for all these different things throughout the day every day. So it kind of prepared me for these moments. I feel like I’ve always been that type of person. A lot of people like boring jobs or just want to sit still. I’m not that type of person. I have to be moving, so no, I don’t think I’m too busy. I still try to make some time for myself to have fun and do things that young people do.”
Maybe then the question isn’t how does Danberry manage it all, but why? She’s still young. Couldn’t she just wait until basketball was totally in the rearview mirror? Maybe some would do that, but that’s not who Danberry is.
“I try to always keep my options open,” Danberry said. “We’ve always been told as athletes that not everyone makes it to the professional level. So I just always had that in the back of my head growing up and going through high school and college that I need to always be prepared for anything to happen. My grandfather teaches that a lot to me as well, so I just kind of keep my options open to everything. I feel like basketball is just second nature to me. I’ll always love it and I can always do it if the Lord wills, so yeah, I’ve just got back-up plans.”
Leaving a legacy
It’ll be interesting to see where Danberry’s big dreams take her. They’ve already taken her to college basketball’s biggest stage. They might also soon land her in pro ball.
If all goes well, in the not-too-distant future, there’ll also be many Mississippians who have Danberry to thank for a high-quality education. There’ll be kids in Arkansas and in cities around around the country inspired by Conducting Creativity.
Yes, Jordan Danberry might end up with a wide-reaching legacy. At the end of the day though, she says she just wants people to ultimately remember her for being her – an individual who did all she could to make the world a better place.
“I really want to be remembered just as me, the person,” Danberry said. “I don’t want to be remembered necessarily for basketball or any of the other things I’m involved in. It’s just all about people’s experience with me. I want to be known for being a good person and having a good heart and just caring for everybody.”