Jazian Gortman knew the odds were stacked against him.
Realizing his dream of becoming one of the top point guards in the country would be a tall order on its own but accomplishing that goal without playing on one of the major shoe circuits and coming from a state like South Carolina, which is more known as a gridiron recruiting hotbed, could potentially push that goal further out of reach.
“We’ve had stars like Jai Morant and Zion Williamson in South Carolina, but we’ve always been known as more of a football state,” Gortman said. “A lot of people told me I needed to move to a bigger school, play on certain teams and all that, but I liked the idea of putting on for my city. I liked the idea of creating my own lane.”
Gortman’s father Sam Gortman instilled the idea in him to create his own narrative and establish himself as a legitimate force before even considering joining the Nike EYBL. Sam wasn’t a fan of the politics that can sometimes come along with high-profile teams and knew his son’s stock needed to be at an all-time high before he made the transition.
To that end, Gortman knew he couldn’t just play well against circuit teams; he’d have to dominate them.
“I definitely went a little harder when I would play those circuit teams,” Gortman said. “I would always put up 25-plus a game whenever I played against those teams. My dad is big on creating your own wave, and when he finally realized that I’d gotten to that level he let me play on the circuit to have fun and play against the best competition.”
Last year, Gortman joined NightRydas Elite (Fla.), a Nike EYBL team, and wasted no time making his mark.
The major turning point for Gortman came last summer at the On The Radar Hoops event when he scored 30 points against Team Thad, another Nike EYBL team.
“I was doing moves people hadn’t really seen before and scoring in every way you could imagine,” Gortman said. “People were going crazy. I just had it going. That’s when everything changed.”
Before that game, Gortman’s offers were mostly from mid majors, since then he’s become a hot commodity with high major coaches.
“It’s gotten crazy,” Gortman said. “Illinois, Alabama, Kentucky, Duke, Wake Forest, South Carolina, Clemson, Florida State, Florida, N.C. State and a few others are all reaching out. It’s cool to get the attention, but I look at it like I got the attention because of how hard I work. I feel like getting caught up in all of that stuff can give you an ego, and I don’t want that. It’s all about getting better for me.”
Last week he took his first official visit to Florida State and plans to visit Wake Forest, Alabama, N.C. State and Miami in September.
“The Florida State visit was great, I loved it,” Gortman said. “The staff was great, and the facilities were top of the line. Tallahassee felt like Columbia, so it really felt like home.”
Gortman plans to stay home to finish out his high school career after averaging 23.1 points, 5.8 rebounds and 3.3 steals a game for Keenan (Columbia, S.C.) this past season.
As for his ultimate decision, Gortman said it’s less about a timeline and more about timing.
“I don’t really have a set time; it’s all about when I’m ready,” Gortman said. “When I feel that I know for sure, I’ll commit. My biggest focus is on playing against the best competition. I want to play all of the guards who are supposed be on top. That’s all I’m focused on. I know all of the schools will be watching, so I’ll look at everything after July. Right now, it’s all about playing my best ball. The rest will take care of itself.”